October 19, 2011

Review – Aliens: Infestation

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 1:44 pm

Aliens Infestation Review
The U.S.S. Sulaco drifts silently through space, short on a flight crew but freshly infested with those iconic monsters that mostly come at night.


Without Ellen Ripley to save the day, the task of investigating and once again attempting to exterminate the alien menace falls on a new squad of marines – four to be exact. The initial lineup of characters offers the typical bravado, and includes an obligatory “Vasquez” character. And that initial tip of the hat is only one of the many ways Infestation illustrates a profound love for the James Cameron film. From an early cat cameo to an additional mini-game that challenges players to stab the DS stylus like a knife between on-screen fingers, this is the Aliens game that never arrived when 2D was the norm and not the occasional throwback treat.

As much of some of us suffered the absence of a decent Aliens game back then, it was probably worth the wait, with WayForward’s familiar 2D signature visible in all the deliciously subtle details that continue to make the 2D genre relevant for so often doing more with less. The familiar sounds of machine gun fire and the blips of the motion sensor picking up alien movement make for an immediately inviting atmosphere, but the lifeblood of this release is the xenomorph menace, which often blends into the background, suddenly stirring to life to howl, twist, and swing those deadly dagger tails with lethal efficiency.

And while I have zero hesitation at throwing the usual praise toward WayForward’s design abilities, it’s important to stress that Infestation is a far more linear affair than some gamers might be expecting. Since its initial announcement, the game has carried the “Metroidvania” label, which puts a heavy expectation on deep exploration to uncover ample secrets to furnish numerous revisits beyond the initial completion.

Though Infestation possesses some minor tendencies toward that tradition, the flow of the game is much more linear, with a natural progression through the story that will leave any player close to 100% completion without much need for curiosity.

I feel like I focus on replay quite a bit with reviews, and nailing down what makes for good Metroidvania can be a difficult endeavor – one could easily discover most of what Metroid: Zero Mission offers on a single playthrough, and yet I still replay that game plenty. My ideal would likely be Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a game which seems to still offer a few surprises each time I return to it, particularly aided by random enemy weapon drops.

As for Infestation, there simply aren’t any real secrets to discover while unraveling Weyland Yutani’s latest attempt to harness aliens for their weapons program. Players begin the game with the requisite machine gun and a backup pistol, and will additionally pickup a flamethrower, shotgun, and turret gun, but these are impossible to miss the first time through. Only one of these heavy weapons can be equipped at a time, chosen by players while in one of the many save rooms scattered throughout the game – where players also determine which of their four marines will wander the atmospheric hallways.

Along the way there are plenty of hatches that lead through tight tunnels, where aliens tend to build nests and weapon upgrade crates exist. These single-serve upgrades can only be applied to the weapon armed when picked up, and each weapon only gets so powerful.

The game’s more unique feature is that marines are subject to permanent death. When the player’s marine falls in battle, communication is lost and another marine must be selected – dispatched to the place where the previous marine died. In order to keep the squad stocked, marines are the primary item waiting to be discovered. As such, extra marines who have been separated from their squads are found hanging out, waiting and willing to join the player’s team so long as an open spot in the roster exists. Since spots won’t always exist, flares come in handy here for marking their locations on the map. Each marine has a generic yet distinct personality, but never differ in control or ability.

Recruiting marines suffers a bit for the game’s linear nature, really stressing the primary frustration of design choice here. The entire game doesn’t take place just on the Sulaco. Players will also investigate LV-426, including a brief stop at the original derelict spaceship that started it all, as well as a Weyland-Yutani research facility. Marines that are discovered at these locations are left behind if space in the player’s roster isn’t available at the time, forever unavailable when the game returns to a final investigation and showdown on the Sulaco. The inability to return to previous locations is Infestation’s primary deviation from the Metroidvania tradition. And while this doesn’t represent a deal breaker, it remains an important mark of distinction for fans of the well worn formula to be aware of.

The game will help ease the guilt of leaving marines behind by offering boss battles that eat them for breakfast. Boss encounters pit players against large enemies that are made slightly tougher given the movement available to marines – you can evade and shoot while moving backwards, but it was often the case that I finished with a single marine given the limited space and controls that make marines slightly less nimble than my favorite intergalactic bounty hunter.

The backtracking that does take place aboard the Sulaco leads players toward large sections of the ship that are reserved for certain spots in the narrative, and by the end I had reached 98% completion without breaking a sweat. That’s not such a bad thing given how well the game mixes 2D gameplay with Aliens’ aesthetic, but it does lessen immediate replay value. Marines might have different personalities, but nothing to really shine through and make it worth putting together different teams or the like.

The real charm here is that the straightforward nature of the game walks players through a gorgeous 2D depiction of the franchise’s blockbuster entry. The mix of isolative moments, where the familiar blip of the motion sensor warns of swarming aliens ahead, and the more panicked areas that leave players contending with the creatures as they drop from overhead and face huggers leap from eggs simply shifts the emphasis solely to survival over exploration. While the result may differ from initial expectations, it perhaps better suits the franchise, and certainly offers a game worth enlisting with for at least one tour of duty.

WayForward, Gearbox Software


Nintendo DS


Release Date
October 11, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. Nice review Jamie! If companies keep making great DS games, I’ll keep buying them! Take note! ;)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — October 20, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  2. And if this had been a DSiware release… would you have skipped it?

    Comment by EdEN — October 25, 2011 @ 4:35 am

  3. Yes. Number one reason being that I don’t have any systems that use DSiWare. O.G. Phat DS FTW!

    P.S. Aliens Infestation is on sale for $22.49 on Amazon this week. Go get it!

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — October 25, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  4. Time for a 3DS… or are you waiting for a “Slide Pad included” model?

    Comment by EdEN — October 25, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  5. I honestly have no interest in the 3DS or DSiWare, but yes, if I ever bought a 3DS it would have to include the second pad in a symmetrical design.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — October 26, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

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