Another compilation of XBLA games from Mastertronic, this time it is the Alien Breed Trilogy, three games from Team17 that offer arcade shooting action based within the sci-fi setting of space. There is no denying that these three games which, between them, offer three epic single player campaigns and two-player co-op action, deserve to be packaged together. But is there any point?
Well, games purchased through Xbox Live Arcade have an obvious appeal. No trudging down to the shop, just download and play. They are cheaper too, for the most part. It is all about convenience. But it is also true that there are people out there who don’t buy games over XBLA, there are people who prefer to have their games on disc, rather than a bunch of data on a HDD, and there are people who buy games from shops on a whim, especially when they are bargain priced.
It is these people that the Mastertronic compilations are aimed at. The games are exactly the same as the XBLA versions. Even the menu on the disc is almost like a front-end to the arcade versions of the game. The Xbox360 can’t tell the difference, so why should you. This disc is priced at £19.99 in GAME, which roughly works out about the same as three 800 MSPoint arcade games, so no difference there. However, being able to get all three titles in one package and put them on your shelf with your other games has obvious appeal. Getting all of the games in a set, such as this one and the Serious Sam offering which I will be discussing soon, makes sense and will be of interest to gamers who may have passed on the individual episodes. Compilations such as the Popcap games also offer the chance to try a game that maybe the player would have ignored on XBLA. There is certainly a place for such compilations and I welcome them. But how do the games included on this disc measure up?
Alien Breed: Evolution
Hitting the XBLA in late 2009, this first episode in the trilogy is a top-down arcade shooter that gives a nod in the direction of every sci-fi cliche around. The dark and moody setting aboard a damaged spaceship that has been overrun with alien bug creatures will set the nerves on edge and highlight the importance of bringing a friend for some co-op action and moral support.
The player aims with the right stick and moves with the left, whilst the right trigger takes care of the firing. With various different difficulty levels and an extremely limited supply of ammo for the games numerous weapons, players of all skill levels should find something here to challenge them and get them in the mood for episode 2.
Alien Breed 2: Assault
Launched some 10 months later, the second episode follows the story of our hero as he still tries to escape from his alien-filled predicament. Expect more of the same as you wander the lonely corridors in this continuing tale, defending yourself from the hordes of aliens and trying to preserve the oh so precious ammunition. Again, playing co-op is preferable, making the game both easier and more fun.
Once the player has finished with the campaign, survival mode offers an interesting diversion. With wave after wave of aliens attacking the player, this arena-based mode is challenging to say the least. But with the challenge comes the rewards of achievements and eternal fame with an online leaderboard.
Alien Breed 3: Descent
The third and final installment in the trilogy brings everything to a climactic finish. The gameplay is more of the same, but with a few surprises along the way. If you have played through the first two, you will know what to expect here. More dimly lit corridors, more aliens and still not enough ammo.
All three games offer the same gameplay in roughly the same environments. Whilst the visual effects ensure that everything is looking good, and there are some really impressive lighting effects going on, the lack of variety in the environments can lead to repetitiveness. This is diminished by having a friend join the game though, offering solid co-op action. Another fault throughout is the camera control, which can make it very easy to miss important items or bring about an untimely demise from hidden enemies.
Three games in one package, offering more arcade alien shooter action than one person can surely need. The games do have their issues, but top down shooter of this quality on XBLA are few and far between, so three on one disc is a bargain. Played in co-op, the games really shine, making this package a worthwhile addition to any collection.