Light on story and heavy on action, Alien Hominid is the first console outing of promising developer The Behemoth. Having cut their collective teeth on Newgrounds.com with the massively popular Flash version of AH, the ladies and gentlemen at The Behemoth have brought us home one of the most frenetic and frustratingly entertaining shooters available to date.
The basic premise of the story is just shy of ho-hum: you’re an Alien that crash landed on earth and are fighting the FBI for your life and your ship. However, engaging plot-twists aren’t what keep us playing games like the original Contra or, more recently, Metal Slug. Alien Hominid is all about the action and, like the games previously mentioned, there is a maddening amount of it here. Right from the start the Alien is introduced to a downright evil number of enemies that will scramble from every corner of the screen. Obstacles like fiendishly placed gun turrets and enigmatic boss encounters alike will require a slick combination of quick reflexes and memorization. But with the mastering of AH‘s moves and techniques, these impediments should prove to be no problem at all, right?
The rudimentary gameplay mechanics should be unhealthily familiar to all but the most amateur of gamers. Run to the right, shoot anything that isn’t you and STAY ALIVE! However, The Behemoth took things a bit further and added some finesse to our hero’s arsenal of physical performance. In addition to classic running and gunning, the Alien can pull off a plethora of attacks including a stealth move where he can burrow underfoot for a short period of time in order to pull down an unsuspecting Agent to his doom. Some acrobatic rolls are thrown in for evasive maneuvering. And you can even jump on the backs of your enemies (or your partner in two-player!), ride them like pigs, throw them into other enemies, and for that perfect finishing touch you may even bite off their heads, all in the name of earning Style Points. All of these fancy actions and their respective point bonuses lead to extra lives. So experiment, go nuts, and pull of some wicked bad moves.
Likewise, the rest of the game screams style. Bright and colorful animations and menus, huge screen-filling monstrosities and lighting-fast gameplay set the stage for Alien Hominid‘s aesthetics. Like its Flash counterpart AH is all 2-D and completely hand drawn, but improvements such as bigger explosions and visual effects, higher frame rates, and a vast assortment of enemies weapons and vehicles all culminate into a much larger and more satisfying gaming experience. The whole thing looks and feels like a mad Saturday morning cartoon experiment gone wrong. But do not be fooled, there is plenty of bloody masochistic carnage to go around.
While not the game’s crowning achievement, the soundtrack offers some tight, modern techno/rock tracks that fit the lighthearted but frantic nature of the game. The dynamic range of sound effects can get lost in the shuffle as there are massive amounts of explosions, screams, and ricocheted bullets all layered on top of each other. This can make it hard to hear some of the more subtle sounds like whirring robot motors and squishing human guts, but that’s the price you pay for chaotic sounds keeping up with chaotic action. It’s an admirable job in the sound department nonetheless.
In a certain sense Alien Hominid has replay value to spare. With two different styles of minigames, unlockable hats and a co-op two player mode the game can be played more than once and still feel like a fresh experience. You can do the Challenge Mode where you choose from different areas of the game to revisit and destroy for a high score challenge. Or, you can opt for the PDA games where you choose to play a variety of 4-player games similar to those found on an Atari but with completely original content and even a level editor to boot. While these games may not hold a match to the original, they add another level of depth and enjoyment to the title that would be sorely missed. In addition, performing certain tasks or meeting some unknown conditions, like blowing up a particular building, may lead to unlocking some stylish, albeit useless, hats for our beloved Alien. Personally, I think the goggles are the coolest; they make the Alien look like a pilot.
Regardless of any preconceived notions or biases, do not let the cartoon-like presentation fool you; Alien Hominid will be unforgiving and merciless to the unassuming gamer. The level of challenge present will either have you throwing controllers in disgust or frothing at the mouth for more. Hardcore gamers will delight in the old-school flavoring but those looking for a leisurely gameplay experience will be left with a bitter taste in their mouths. This is a definite must-buy for any hardcore gamer or shooter fan with a GameCube, and with a budget price tag in tow, there is no excuse for not owning it!