“Three fleets of spaceships flee a doomed Earth carrying the last humans in cryostasis. Pursued by aliens, it’s up to the lowly security droids to save humanity. Taking up arms solo or with a friend, you must dance with death in a brutal and addictive arcade platformer shooter inspired by Super Crate Box and stuffed to the brim with unlockables.
Fight through rapid fire single screen levels each with a random combination of platform layout, objective, vending machines and enemies. Dodge and weave amongst the aliens to stay alive but don’t leave them standing too long or the ship’s radiation will mutate them into bigger, nastier versions.
Only by unlocking and mastering the wild variety of weapons, explosives, special abilities, defense moves and perks can you hope to survive across all three galaxies, rid your ship of the mutant menace and save the oblivious humans.”
We’ve not been short on action packed 2D indie shooters lately, but there’s always room for more. Sure, they don’t always differentiate the gameplay all that much, but they’re fun to blast through – especially with a friend. Super Mutant Alien Assault is another action packed 2D shooting experience that can be enjoyed either alone or in multiplayer, but whilst it certainly has a lot of good qualities, there are a few lacking areas that stop it from striving towards greatness.
Super Mutant Alien Assault casts you in the role of a variety of Droids that have been given the role of defending what’s left of the human race. After Earth met its doom, the humans went out into Space in a cryostasis state aboard a series of Spaceships. Of course, the evil aliens won’t let them get away easy, so it’s up to you to take them out and protect the future of the humanity.
It’s an incredibly simple concept that sees you working across a series of small Spaceships with different layouts. Super Mutant Alien Assault promises randomly generated levels for a different experience each time, though admittedly I’d encountered the same layouts so often during my time with the game that I never really felt like any playthrough felt particularly unique. Also, when the layouts did change there wasn’t a whole lot of variety to them – there were never any levels that felt significantly different to the rest.
It probably doesn’t help that the aesthetic design for each level doesn’t change up that much. Whilst I’m a big fan of the art design of Super Mutant Alien Assault, there isn’t a whole lot of variety in the environment design. It will change up as you progress between different Galaxies, but given that the game is designed to be difficult and have you play through the same areas multiple times, seeing the same things over and over again could feel a little boring.
Fortunately, whilst Super Mutant Alien Assault is lacking with its level design and variety, the weapons on offer are significantly better. You’re able to carry both a primary weapon that comes with limited ammo and a sidearm that features unlimited ammo at the expense of its damage output. Even though you have limited ammo with your primary weapon, you’re able to replace it on a regular basis thanks to the weapon dispensers that’ll keep you well equipped.
The weapons on offer are great, with standard weapons like assault rifles and shotguns mixing it up with the likes of huge sniper rifles, grenade launchers and rocket launchers. As you progress through the game you’ll slowly unlock more powerful (and often bizarre) weapons too – my personal favourite was the pogo stick that lets you smash down on your opponents. That’s right; you battle aliens with a POGO STICK.
Whilst the weapon choice is slick, the small environments often left me at a disadvantage. Sometime you’d get a rocket launcher, but seeing as you’re often left with little room to manoeuvre you’d end up taking damage from the explosion when using it. The same disadvantage would apply to weapons like the sniper rifle which requires almost pinpoint accuracy to use, which again was something that could be difficult due to how small and restricted each level was. You could always resort to your side-arm, but the little damage each choice offers isn’t very effective when you have hordes of aliens heading your way.
You’ll also get access to explosive weapons, as well as power-ups and special moves. Power-ups grant you abilities such as double jumping and quick dashes, whilst your special moves offer you a more powerful means to wipe out a group of opponents. They’re really useful throughout the game and certainly got me out of a few tricky situations.
Whilst I’ve criticised Super Mutant Alien Assault’s level design, it does try to keep things varied by giving you a set of different objectives to complete on each level. Sometimes it might be simply defeating all enemies, another time you might have to make sure canisters don’t explode, whilst another time you might be transporting fuel cells to a generator. The variety keeps things interesting, but again, they’re somewhat lacking given that the level designs don’t change up enough. At least there’s some variety in the gameplay though, so it stops things feeling too stale.
You’ll face off against a good assortment of aliens throughout the game, each offering something different to watch out for. They’re not particularly smart but they’ll attack in numbers, keeping you on your toes throughout each level. You’ll also face off against tougher aliens in the game’s boss encounters, though they aren’t too clever either – they are a lot more powerful and can damage you with their blood though, which can cause a lot of problems throughout the game’s small levels. They’re entertaining encounters though and the aliens are certainly a worthy foe. Like the weapons, the further you progress through the game, the more alien adversaries that’ll come your way.
Whilst it has its flaws elsewhere, Super Mutant Alien Assault manages to at least look the part thanks to its great pixel art. Enemies not only look fantastic but are animated fluidly too, whilst the environments are well designed – even if they are lacking in variety. The game controls well and each action, be it shooting or avoiding enemies, is mapped perfectly to the controller. I felt in control throughout, which is important in a game like this where quick reactions are an absolute must.
Super Mutant Alien Assault is far from perfect, but it’s certainly not a bad game. Whilst the level design and variety was lacking, the fast-paced, action packed gameplay often made up for it. There’s a good variety of weapons on offer too – did I mention you can use a pogo stick to kill aliens?! It won’t hook you in for a long time, but it’ll certainly provide a few hours entertainment to fans of 2D action games.
Developer: Cybernate (www.cybernate.com)
Publisher: Surprise Attack (www.surpriseattackgames.com)
Release Date: 15/07/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC