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Alien Breed

After a six month tour of duty of the relatively quiet Outer Spiral arm, Johnson and Stone were looking forward to nothing more than a well earned break. That was when the command came through – outpost ISRC-4, in orbit over Gianor, had gone dark and needed to be investigated. But as they docked the IPCC Miraculous to the space station, an eerie silence was evident. Everything was not as it seemed…

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Originally released on the Amiga in 1991, Alien Breed is held in high regard by many gamers. The special edition remained in UK charts for over a year and the franchise has seen iterations on many generations of consoles, including the Xbox 360. Having seen success with a port on the iOS store and PS Mobile in recent years, Team 17 has seen fit to release the definitive version for PlayStation Vita.

“Perfectly suited to gaming on the go”The core gameplay of the original remains intact in this iteration. The game is viewed from a top down perspective and Johnson and Stone must navigate increasingly labyrinthine levels to complete objectives, which in most cases is to reach a designated room on the map. Controls are simplistic – the left stick is assigned to movement, and the right designated to directionality of fire. Aliens will block your every path but you have access to a veritable arsenal to obliterate the extraterrestrial horde. Once the objective is complete, the deck is set to self destruct and a countdown begins, signaling a dash back to the spawn point before the time expires. It’s a simple but effective mechanic to create a sense of tension and haste in the final moments of a level.

Pickups are scattered throughout each environment. Bonus orbs increase your overall score, keycards open locked doors and medipacs and magazines replenish your health and ammunition respectively. Credits make up the remainder of the collectibles and can be used in the in-game shop. Accessible from the pause menu, the shop provides the ability to purchase all manner of items from extra lives and the aforementioned keycards to, more importantly, weapon upgrades. Initially, your character is only equipped with a standard automatic weapon but flamethrowers, missile launchers and other assorted tools of destruction can be purchased, with each having vastly different ranges and effects.

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Alien Breed is perfectly suited to gaming on the go. Each environment will take only a few moments to complete but will encourage repeat play sessions. Every level has its own leaderboard, allowing friends to compare scores and vie for the top spot. The collectibles in each map also carry through to subsequent outings, so it’s almost encouraged to farm credits to unlock new weapons. Co-op is also an option in each level, with the Vita supporting both Ad-hoc and wireless multiplayer. The game is comprised of thirty levels, including those from the original and special editions, plus all new content created for the Vita. Considering the title is also cross-buy with the PS3 version, that’s a lot of content on offer for minimal investment.

“Solid twin stick shooter”The visuals are noticeably sharp on the Vita’s OLED screen, however the environments all tend to run together in a jumbled mass of sci-fi cliche. The sound effects are suitably retro, with the xenomorph growls standing out in particular. In a neat nod to the 1991 version, the entire game (including the new content) is playable in “classic” mode. Not only does this revert the visuals and audio to those of the original version, but the control scheme too, replacing the twin stick mechanics with single stick movement and a fire button reminiscent of the days where joysticks were the norm. This adds another layer of challenge to the title as it forces an all new play style based on this simple restriction.

However, the lack of variety on offer means that the gameplay can soon stagnate. There are only three different types of enemies present, none of which are especially challenging. In fact, the enhanced mode doesn’t offer much in the way of a challenge, with the boss fights in particular seeming more like stopgaps in the levels. A map item, available from the in game shop once you collect enough credits, removes much of the tension by allowing a route to be planned through the entire arena, and the frantic dash back to the deck lift is much easier when you can instantly pause and cautiously plan your way back. Purists will bemoan the ability to access the shop at any time – originally this had to be accessed through a deck terminal – again, it’s another change that takes away from the difficulty on offer.

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There’s no doubting that fans of the original will want to pick up this lovingly crafted version of a classic title. To those not influenced by the pull of nostalgia, Alien Breed is a solid twin stick shooter that, while not providing the challenge of the game on which it’s based, is a great game to play when you have a few minutes to spare, perfect for those looking to take down the alien menace on the go.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in January 2013. Get in touch on Twitter @michael_ormonde.

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