Close encounters of the 2D kind.
Aliens, Predators and Alfs might terrorize our planet beautifully, but they sure are ugly. If humanity is going be enslaved by marauding alien invaders, why not face extinction by something cute and cuddly?
Take, for instance, a devilishly happy extraterrestrial that smiles even while spilling the blood of the innocent and slicing mankind up like deli meats. That sounds like a much nicer way to go, and in fact turns out to be pretty fun in Alien Hominid for the PS2 and GC.
This quirky side-scroller first came into being as a free online Flash arcade game. In an unprecedented move by a tiny independent developer, it has been ported over to the consoles with redrawn graphics and gameplay moves, although it features the same cute, vicious protagonist.
Cut from the same cloth as 2D side-scrollers like Contra and Metal Slug, Alien Hominid stars a bright yellow Alien with an impish grin. Hurled onto Earth, the nameless extraterrestrial must make his way across cities and streets, blasting and bombing a never-ending scourge of FBI agents and bosses. Why? Well, just because, I suppose. Obviously, the dude didn't come in peace.
Armed with a basic peacemaker single-shot weapon, the Alien can also upgrade with a full arsenal of familiar guns like spread fire and ice shots. There's also a melee knife for close range attacks and a cache of bombs. The Alien can even hijack vehicles; it's deliciously evil recklessly mowing down FBI agents, recalling the various vehicles in Metal Slug.
But unlike that classic series, Alien Hominid relies very heavily on strict patterns and memorization. When a boss is firing a giant shot in Metal Slug, for example, you could jump up or you could hop to a lower platform to avoid it. A similar situation in Alien Hominid would allow for only one escape option. The harsh timing demands that you follow the patterns as closely as possible, rewarding memorization and repetition instead of good reflexes.
The difficulty in avoiding shots can also be attributed to the fact that the shots don't contrast enough with the game's backgrounds. That, however, is really the only thing wrong with the game's visuals. Alien Hominid's graphics are certainly striking, featuring highly-stylized, hand-drawn characters and environments. There are some very large bosses and plenty of funny little touches, adding even more charm to a game overflowing with it. The whole thing could have really benefited from some smoother animation and sharper detail, but by and large, the looks are great.
As is the music, which is mostly comprised of over-the-top action-movie tunes. Coupled with the game's cartoon antics and silly sound effects, the presentation is perfectly quirky.
Alien Hominid allows you to replay any of its 16 levels with a limited numbers of lives and continues. The option to go back to absolutely any level you've already played means you should have enough of a lifeline to make your way through the game. Some might complain that this allowance makes the game too easy - you can essentially plod your way through, restarting each level again and again - but the gameplay is challenging enough to keep you coming back.
Perhaps due to the independent spirit of Alien Hominid, it's not as finely-tuned as it should be. It's ported from a Flash game, after all, and therefore doesn't excel in terms of depth. We've seen a 2D game really push the boundaries in the form of Viewtiful Joe; Alien Hominid sort of pales by comparison.
Don't let that stop you from checking it out, though. With a great style taken directly from the pages of a deranged art student's sketchbook and fun if occasionally frustrating action to boot, this little alien proves that you don't need a big, fancy ship to invade a home console.