Xbox Live’s arcade system has been a flawed program since the beginning, rarely offering up anything memorable beyond the initial cult favorite hit Geometry Wars, and since then the recent arcade games to have come out have been nothing more than old arcade game ports. However, the Xbox Live arcade has a few tricks up its sleeves every once in a while, and suddenly here comes Alien Hominid, making a case for itself as the best game you can buy for your points.
In Alien Hominid you play as a little yellow alien who suddenly finds himself getting shot down by the good old US of A and it’s up to you to get your ship back. However, you won’t just be exploring America’s urban wasteland in your quest, because you’ll also find yourself heading back to the USSR and ultimately to the secretive Area 51. Can you survive? Chances are not a chance in the world!
Believe me when I saw Alien Hominid is of the old school mentality of gaming, meaning simple graphics in concept, flat textures against flat backgrounds, one hit one kill gameplay harkening back to Contra, and insanely insane (yes, that insane!) difficulty that will have you cursing up a mighty storm. But you know what else you’ll be doing? You’ll be having a blast!
The idea of the game is easy: run left and right, shooting all enemies that oppose you and destroying all objects that impede your progress, and avoid all enemy fire. Then, at the midway and end you’ll fight a boss who’ll give you even more of a run for your money. Controls are really simple as well, where the left thumbstick will move your alien, the A-button jumps, the X-button shoots, etc. However, there are some more interesting moves, such as using the trigger to dive roll to their corresponding directions, making it so you can quickly dive out of the way or trouble or dodge roll past bullets. There are also two kind of secretive offensive moves, with one being the underground dive where you dive into the ground, peep out, and grab unsuspecting foes to bring them down for the kill, and the head chomp (a personal favorite) that you get by jumping onto any enemy and attacking them.
As you go along, though you’ll have an infinite amount of bullets in your regular raygun, you’ll run across powerups throughout the levels, that will temporarily give you a one hit shield, but the best powerups are the weapons themselves, such as the flame, frost, rapid fire, and spreadgun that you can get. Many of the powerups even have their own death kills, like the fire burning people to a crisp, the frost one freezing enemies, and the laser simply shredding the enemy into two.
Beyond hitting the levels strictly on foot, you’ll also be able to pilot a few vehicles and other oddities, such as jumping into a car or bulldozer to plow through enemies, a tank or missile launcher to fire off some massive explosions, even moving on to piloting your own ship amongst the skies and flying baddies, all the way to riding a yeti. Yes, you heard that right, a yeti! And I’ll tell you now he is the cutest little (okay, giant) instrument of death you’ve ever seen, what with all the fist punching and baddie eating. Most of the vehicles won’t last you too long, because they are destroyable and fall apart pretty quickly at that.
The levels range in creativity from urban wastelands filled with concrete and demolishing buildings to the snow drenched countryside of a Mother Russia to jumping from moving car to moving car on a freeway, knowing that one false step will mean a tumble and death. But beyond the stylistics of the levels, the enemies and bosses are where the design elements really shine, because they are all flawlessly animated, featuring some really, silky smooth animations, and are really creative and inventive. You’ve got giant punching robots, a giant pudding monster who you hurt by dousing it with water, and my favorite is probably the giant Russian robot that attacks you with a hammer and a sickle (if you don’t get it, look it up â€“ Google is your friend).
The game isn’t going to take you hours and hours to complete, but you aren’t going to breeze through it all in minutes either. There are 15 levels spread across 3 worlds, plus there are three difficulties for you to choose from. Beyond having fun, you’ll probably want to tackle the game to try and rise up the leaderboard rankings. Beyond the normal level games itself, you’ve also got a few minigames that you’ll unlock throughout your play of the game, and though they aren’t terribly amazing or great or anything, they are fun diversions and games for some quick fixes, with my favorite being the Missile Master one which has you guiding a Russian missile through the air as you try to avoid planes and other obstacles all so that you can blow up America. Russia blowing up Americaâ€¦what’s funny about that? You just gave to see the little dancing Russian followed by the PWNED winning message.
In the end, when all things are said and done, there have been plenty of Xbox Live arcade games where I’ve bought them and instantly regretted my purchase. However, Alien Hominid is not one of those games â€“ I’m thoroughly enjoying myself with this wonderful celebration of all things old school. It is a beautiful looking game thanks to its animated charm and cute gore infused graphics, that will have you laughing more than wanting to throw up in your mouth (Hostel level gore this is not â€“ besides, you can turn the gore off for the kiddies if you want). If you want some old school goodness, but wrapped in new and hotness, be sure to give Alien Hominid a look.