When the human’s away, the droids will play. At least, that’s what the phrase could have evolved into once the inevitable android uprising sets in. I’ve got my eye on you Cortana. I know your plans.
Fortunately, we get to explore that happy possibility early in Super Mutant Alien Assault: a punchy arcade platformer from indie studio Cybernate, proffering neat 16-bit visuals, fast-paced combat and more than a little inspiration from Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box.
Publisher: Surprise Attack Games
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also Available On: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Out Now
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.
In attempt to flee impending extinction, the last three humans in existence have been blasted into outer space, suspended in blissful cryosleep . That is, until the aliens promptly crash the party. With intergalactic monsters swiftly drowning the ship, it’s up to you as a clunky security bot to clear the triage of ships and save Humanity’s last shot at life. All in a droid’s work, huh?
The set-up is deliciously simple. You’re plonked down into a series of randomly-generated single screen maps and left to fight it out against waves of extraterrestrials. Your sole mission is even simpler: live through the battle. Naturally, this involves killing rather a lot of aliens; something Super Mutant Alien Assault is rather good at preparing you for.
Controls are comfortably straightforward. You can jump, shoot and move left or right across the arena, as well as arm yourself with a slew of weapons, from bolt-action rifles to explosive pogo sticks. Vending machines will pop up now and then throughout the battle, offering a selection of hefty firearms designed to blow your attackers to high-heaven. Combat is vaguely reminiscent of Hotline Miami in that each weapon is exhaustible, requiring you to constantly switch arms once your ammo is up. However, as each new pickup is randomised, it’s never certain which weapon you’ll be wielding next. As such, I found myself constantly adapting my strategy as I eyed enemy spawn-points, and as levels became more saturated and armories more dense, so mounted the tension as I hopped, skipped, and blasted my way through the vibrant masses. Even when alien-killing isn’t the priority, there are valves to stabilise and fuel tanks to fill that can really test your limits with enemy evasion and reaction time.
Oh, and did I mention that dying sends you back to the beginning of the galaxy? Because it does. It very much does.
Surviving stages and defeating enemies will unlock various extras, with notable trinkets including new weapons, explosives and special abilities. Once these are made available to you, they open up the gameplay significantly, with the inclusion of primary and secondary weapons lending some welcome support once the intergalactic hordes filter in, and ammo starts to wear thin. Explosives can be useful, but their efficacy pales against the game’s supercharged firearms. Whilst you’ve the option to charge your explosives before pitching enemies a fastball, damage-level doesn’t much differ from the capabilities of rocket-launchers or some of the heftier rifles. This said, however, they’re a nifty back-up. I just wish I had more reason to break out the fireworks.
The intergalactic visuals are also a far cry from the industrial isms of Crate Box, instead sporting a neat, SNES-y colour scheme laced with illuminated circuitry and minor gun detailing. The aliens themselves echo Vlambeer’s eccentric beasties, including hovering brain-creatures and red-eyed frog beings that never fail to yield a grin or two during matches.
My main grievance with Super Mutant Alien Assault lies in its controls. Though the control scheme is comfortable and distinctly memorable, shooting feels a touch slow, which can render some of the more trying battles a tad frustrating. Jumping feels similarly odd, appearing jut lax enough to irk when leaping to avoid certain enemies.
Not irksome in the least, however, is the game’s soundtrack is one of the most discernible aspects of Super Mutants. It much resembles what I’d imagine I’d hear if I got to work on my microwave with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Super Mutant Alien Assault’s distinctly wubby soundtrack lends a vivid pulse to each of its alien-mashing sessions. I wouldn’t call myself an avid dubstepper, but I did find myself half-bopping on occasion as I pummelled my other-worldly assailants into satisfying pixel-mush.
Super Mutant Alien Assault is a confident game. Wearing its arcade influences on its brightly-hued sleeve, Cybernate’s new platformer offers a classic arcade experience lined with twitchy platforming, . and despite its rogue-like approach to death and progress, the game’s randomised pickup system ensures each session is novel in some way or another. It’s nothing particularly new, but it doesn’t aim to be, and perhaps it’s for that reason I find myself charmed nonetheless.
For more information, you can visit Cybernate’s official site here.