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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Alien Hominid (Gamecube)

Alien Hominid is one of those rare titles that exudes creativity and dedication. At heart, its a traditional 2D side scrolling shooter in an age of 3D everything, but there are some modern touches thrown in. The solid gameplay boasts numerous power-ups, cleverly designed levels, tons of cool sub and main bosses plus endless extras. Even cooler is the cooperative play where two Hominids can fight it out side by side. The humorous graphics give the game a uniquely off-kilter look though the animation is smooth. Add in dozens of mini-games and you have a title that offers plenty of replay value. Read our review and find out why Alien Hominid is a superb example of the little guy triumphing over much larger and richer enemies.

Starting life as a humble web-game, Alien Hominid from small developers O3 Entertainment earned a large cult following on the net. Now, the series gets a new life on console, with an excellent Gamecube edition thatís been expanded with new levels, mini-games and bosses. This is a perfect example of how dedication, perseverance, and talent on the part of a small development team can make for an engaging title that matches the efforts of larger teams with more resources. It stands out even more these days with its simple premise and classically styled play, far removed from the multi-million dollar cinematic monsters clogging up the arteries of electronic gaming. The premise is rather simple, you are an alien hominid sent to destroy the Earth, but a missile attack causes your ship to crash onto the planet. Here, youíll have to fight off hordes of FBI agents as they attempt to capture you. This is all explained in the light-hearted introductory scenes that exude personality and creativity to give you a taste of the off-beat adventure ahead.

Alien Homindís action and gameplay mechanics are fairly straightforward by todayís standards, with an approach that has having in common with 16-bit classics like Earthworm Jim and Contra than todayís more complicated releases. This is a traditional 2D platforming title with shooting elements and a few modern twists such as mini-games thrown in to the mix. The game has that classic platforming feel down flat. Alien Hominidís controls are fluid, intuitive and responsive which allows the gameplay to flow perfectly. While heís moving around each area, the alien can use his gun to blow away enemies, and use jumping, crouching and running techniques to elude his foes. The alien can also hold his fire button to cause a huge power-burst and collect a variety of power-ups that will increase his firepower even more. At certain points, our Hominid hero will also use his grenades to inflict massive damage on bosses. He can also take over vehicles such as tanks and cars to create even more havoc. At the middle and end of each level, heíll face off against a variety of main and sub bosses during each level. The opponents can be quite difficult, with elaborate attack patterns and devastating weapons including giant ray guns.

Your initial impression might make it seems like this humorous game wonít present much of a challenge, the surface is deceptive. Alien Hominidís difficulty is set surprisingly high, making players work to progress to the later levels. Its not easy and you probably wonít beat the game in one sitting, unless you go through each area repeatedly. While the first few levels are fairly straightforward, later levels introduce more complicated objectives and different gameplay mechanics, which makes for a more challenging experience. For example, players will find an entire level that takes place on the road, where the Hominid has to constantly switch vehicles in order to stay one step ahead of the FBI Agents. This is much harder than it sounds, requiring split-second timing in order to keep the hominid from falling out of the vehicles. Other levels change things up with piŮata-style bosses and different types of attackers including robots and more. The standard enemies are usually fairly easy to defeat, but the bosses are frequently tough eggs to crack. They require you to spend a lot of time learning their patterns, finding their weak spots and exploiting them mercilessly. Itís a classic formula that seems to have been largely abandoned in modern gaming, but Alien Hominid shows that it still works when applied properly. Another key element in Hominidís appeal is its randomness. You never know what to expect from level to level, and this unpredictability makes for an engaging title throughout. The single-player experience is engaging and challenging in its own right, requiring a great deal of skill to complete. However, Alien Hominid adds several extra modes that extend the gameís longevity even further.

Players can access a few of Alien Hominidís PDA mini-games right off the bat. These simple puzzle style games require the player to get from one section of the level to another without getting killed. Theyíre deceptively simple, and make you think about your moves before you make them. These are presented in a charming minimalist, yet funky style that fits in nicely with the look and feel of the main game. More elaborate mini-games more directly tied to the main game that feature the main characters can be unlocked as you progress through the main game and usually include time specific objectives that must be completed before the timer runs out. The other way that Alien Hominid extends its replay value is with a cool cooperative mode that allows to players to blast through the game simultaneously. This is really cool and adds another layer to the gameplay, making it exponentially more fun to play. In case players have difficulty telling their characters apart, they can give them unique names and even give them different hats ranging from baseball caps to wigs and more. Itís sort of an odd way of doing things but adds to the gameís unique sense of humor and stylish approach to things.

Speaking of Alien Hominidís unique look and feel, it definitely carves a unique niche in the industry. This is largely due to artist Dan Paladinís brilliant designs. His stylish graphics approach that is quite evident throughout the game. The character designs are funny and off-kilter while the backgrounds are surprisingly lively. The artwork is both stylish and funny. Its brightly colored worlds highlighted by impressive use of light-sourcing and cel-shading. This makes Alien Hominid feel more like an interactive cartoon than your standard video games. An impressive amount of care is evident, and each area is full of little sight-gags and in-jokes that make the experience all the more enjoyable. As youíd expect, the gameís animation is smooth and fluid, giving everything a great sense of movement throughout. From a sheer aesthetic standpoint, the game has a unique look and feel thatís quite appealing. This modern 2D title brings a refreshingly different feeling to gaming, making it one of the creative titles to surface in recent times.

While the graphics and visuals are quite pleasing and merit a recommendation by themselves, the solid gameplay is quite addictive. The gameís tight, responsive and very challenging gameplay will challenge platform veterans. Itís a tad more difficult than many modern games, but this makes for a more satisfying experience overall. The additional mini-games and co-op modes add longevity to the already solid single player experience, giving Alien Hominid a surprising amount of depth. Players who loved Capcomís Viewtiful Joe will probably appreciate Alien Hominidís unique approach the most, but this is still a solid release that should please the hardcore crowd more than anyone else. While its always fun to root for the little guys, developers O3 donít deserve your support solely due to their small size and underdog status. They have crafted a solidly entertaining and challenging title thatís one of the most enjoyable sleepers weíve played in quite some time. Alien Hominid is a unique title thatís definitely worth a look for hardcore gamers and those looking for something truly special in an age of cookie cutter releases.

Grade: B+

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