The “Aliens” franchise has been scaring moviegoers since the late 1970s, with video game interpretations of the Xenomorphs beginning to show up in the early 1980s, on the Atari 2600. Numerous games over the years have pit humans against their biggest adversaries; some good and some not so good. The latest entry into the franchise, “Aliens: Infestation,” manages to treat the source material with loving care, and bring the series to the Nintendo DS for the first time. Developed by WayForward Technologies and published by Sega, “Infestation” puts our species’ biggest threat into the palm of your hand.
“Infestation” kicks off aboard the space vessel Sulaco, which is manned by a squad of Colonial Marines who are sent to investigate the resulting fallout from “Aliens.” Staying true to the series, it doesn’t take too long for the Marines to figure out that something has gone horribly wrong deep in space, and they begin battling the Xenomorphs. The game plays out as a traditional 2D sidescroller, with loads of weapons at your disposal as you explore a handful of infested locations, looking to put an end to the aliens before they can do any more damage.
“Infestation” may not be as in-depth as a “Metroid” or “Castlevania” game, but it certainly plays out like one. As a side-scroller with maps that take you all over various space stations, learning where you’re going in this game is as important as carrying enough ammo to get there. After your first encounter with the aliens, most players are bound to get a little bit nostalgic for the SNES classic, “Super Metroid.”
Since “Infestation” takes place after the second “Aliens” movie there’s a lot of in game content that pulls directly from the series. From characters to weapons to cats trapped in vents, there are plenty of callouts that should make franchise fans happy. Even though WayForward scaled such a huge franchise down to such a small screen, they seem to have gone out of their way to remain true to the series, and keep their game as authentic as possible: just check out the unlockable knife trick mini game if you need real proof.
Upping The Ante
In an interesting turn of events, the team at WayForward has invoked one of the more challenging play mechanics for characters in recent years: killing them off. Something you don’t see too often in games these days are consequences for reckless behavior, but in “Infestation” if you push the limits of one of your characters, and go and get yourself killed, that character stays dead for the remainder of the game. The only way you can replace them is by finding other Marines who are willing to join your fight. This makes the game both challenging and forces the player to be careful and strategic about each of their moves.
Another Dark Corridor
One of the ways that “Infestation” remains true to the movies it’s based on is that its locales don’t really change too much. Going from spaceship to spaceship helps keep the game maintain the right tone, but everything and everyone pretty much looks the same. The repetition doesn’t hold the game back in any way, it’s just a little variety would help make each of the areas feel unique, especially when you’re backtracking for the third time.
Only Run-N-Gun, Not Jump-N-Gun
Perhaps the biggest downfall of “Infestation” is its frustrating controls. While the majority of the important gameplay buttons are laid out in a standard manner, there’s an awkward reliance on the touchscreen for weapon swapping and map access among other things. This placement can become overly cumbersome, especially when trying to swap weapons in the heat of battle. Add to that the fact that you can’t shoot while jumping, and “Infestation” proves that it isn’t perfect, and the controls take some getting used to.
“Aliens: Infestation” is a great entry in both the “Alien”’ movie and video game franchises. Taking cues from “Metroid” and “Castlevania” was the right direction for WayForward to go in, and because of that, they’ve produced a really enjoyable game that should appeal to both fans of the franchise, as well as most DS owners. If you can work your way past the finicky controls, there’s a really solid title here from a company that’s one of the best developers for the platform.