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Alien Blast: The Encounter

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action

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PC Review - 'Alien Blast: The Encounter'

by Justin on March 22, 2004 @ 1:38 a.m. PST

Genre: Action
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Made By Kiddies
Release Date: February 9, 2004

Alien Blast is one of the many, many PC games currently developed almost exclusively for the bargain bin. It's almost like the game was designed not to be good so it could be priced at $20. There are some ridiculously silly problems with the game, not to mention the fact that it shows us nothing, gameplay-wise, that we haven't seen many times before.

But what is Alien Blast, exactly, you ask? Alien Blast is reminiscent of Beachhead 2000 and other shooting games where you play a stationary gunner who mows down wave upon wave of enemy scum. You don't move; you basically just aim your mouse and click and wait for things to explode in a goopy mess. Supposedly, you're trying to protect this base, or set of satellites, or whatever the heck it is, that rests idly behind you. The controls are pathetically simple; you aim with the mouse, shoot with the left mouse button, zoom in and out with the right, and scroll through your weapons with your wheel. That's it. All. Everything.

Simple games can be fun, right? Sure. I have a blast with simplistic flash games, and Atari games of days past prove to be entertaining (probably in a nostalgic sense more than anything). The problem comes when the simplicity is absolutely non-innovative, has been incorporated as simply a facet of larger games (ever played a first-person-shooter), and asks you for $20 admission.

There are about seven weapons, and they can be upgraded. Occasionally a friendly ship leaves your base and drops things like weapon power-ups. The reason why it doesn't call in reinforcements, or let alone just give you the weapon instead of dropping it in the middle of a field, is apparently far beyond my intellectual abilities. The weapons themselves are nothing special, though. There's an assortment of pistols, rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, et cetera - the usual stuff, really, and nothing more. None are terribly more effective or have advantages over any other.

To make matters worse, the enemies are about as smart as a glass of water. You tip the glass over, it runs downhill. That's basically what the enemies in this game are like. They just run towards your base and attack it and you. There are some running or walking creatures, some floating creatures, and some weird airplane-type creatures. Some of them look a little neat, but they don't employ any real tactics. They don't come in very organized waves. There are some times where I literally waited upwards of a minute between waves, or sometimes I was suddently completely surrounded by enemies.

That would happen because this game has some sort of horrendous pop-up. It is almost offensive, it is so bad. Enemies appear out of nowhere (no special effects, no reason, just POP) oftentimes very close to your base. It's especially noticeable with the flying creatures. The horizon, or any structure to speak of, might be a thousand yards away and they'll pop up within fifty meters. The game doesn't even try to pull a fast one on you by only putting creatures in when you aren't looking. There are no variables in the waves, so creatures will always come from the same spots, and you can look exactly where you know one will be and watch as it pops right up.

Obviously the game wouldn't be very challenging if you could see the creatures a thousand yards away, but it still bugs the piss out of me. That's bad game design.

The levels don't help the problem any. Almost all of them are just fields with structures or mountains in the distance. Due to this the pop-up problem is extremely noticeable and awful. The settings will change; there are desert-like areas, and green mountainous places, and red volcano-type ranges. But fundamentally, each level is basically the same. The only thing that will change, gameplay-wise, are the creatures and the waves that they come in.

The "highly detailed 3D graphics providing an incredibly realistic envrionment" that the game's box advertises seem to be missing, as well. Sure, the game looks fine. But it's not impressive. Enemies are blocky and don't animate really nicely. The special effects leave something to be desired - usually when you shoot an enemy you'll get some random chunks of weirdness, some splatter of blood, and if they're close enough, a nice 2D spash of goop overlaying everything on your "visor". The framerate's solid, but that's really the only great thing about the visuals.

The sound isn't so bad, and at times is the coolest part of the game. Some levels start out with opera music that actually works well an impressed me until the tedium of the gameplay settled in. Some levels, strangely, don't have any music. The sound effects are less than stellar. Aside from any strange alien noises you'll catch, you've got your gunfire and your splatters, and that's basically it. The voice acting after you complete each mission is really bad, though. You get sort of a transmission from some guy congradulating you, but it's all crackly and static-y. I assume that was added because the voice acting is awful - imagine just picking up some guy off of the street, handing him a paper, telling him to read it, and taking the first cut every time. Nonetheless, the sound is still the best part of the game.

What is it with the bargain bin PC games these days? Are developers even trying anymore? I hate to say it, but Alien Blast is yet another game that will be glanced at and tossed aside when looking for games, and rightfully so. It's about as complex as early Atari games, but with 3D graphics and absolutely none of the innovation that those Atari games had in their heyday. You might expect to play this game online with Flash or Java or something, not lay down twenty hard-earned bones for it. While it's slightly fun for maybe ten minutes, the boring gameplay, "pop-up" problems, and lack of variety in levels, AI, or weapons make Alien Blast one of those games that you can laugh about how bad it is. Best to be avoided, I'm sad to say.

Score : 2.5/10


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