Alien Scumbags: First Impressions

Currently under development and set for future release on Steam, as well as being available on the team’s GameJolt page, Alien Scumbags is an upcoming 2D side-scrolling 8-BIT sci-fi shooter survival horror developed by Monster Finger Games; the team behind various titles released on the OUYA such as Mr. Monocle’s Travels and Super Renegade Response. Taking influence from the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem, the player must traverse through an abandoned spaceship called the Nostrami, combat an alien horde that has plagued the ship and uncover what happened aboard the vessel leading up to present events. Impressed by what previews of the game I had seen, I picked up a copy of the game in its current state and decided to give my first impressions of it before it’s full release. Here’s what I thought of Alien Scumbags:

Graphics

The game makes use of 8-BIT graphics and is set on an abandoned station out in the middle of space called the Nostrami. The game’s visual style does well to perpetuate the horrific atmosphere of the spaceship as there is superb use of lighting (or lack of) to induce feelings of tension and suspense throughout. In many respects, although the developers trace their influences for the game to the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem, and these influences are apparent (even more so as the game progresses), I was reminded more of Dead Space than most other games, as, like the former, the game does pretty well to build tension, with not only it’s visual style, but also through its soundtrack, which is the kind of technique used in top-notch horror films. The sound effects that have been used for the enemies add an even more heightened sense of horror; despite the fact that it’s interspersed with dialogue from the main character that includes a number of humorous cultural references. 

Gameplay

Whenever I sit down to play a survival horror or a game that perpetuates elements of survival horror at least, my first hope is that the efforts to make the game as scary as possible don’t work to outweigh the amount of gameplay to enjoy, which is what I’ve found to be the case with many other mainstream survival horror series’ such as Silent Hill or Outlast. But in Alien Scumbags, there is a nice balance; the player must kill all enemies between them and the next level and there are sidequests to be completed, such as collecting audiotapes recorded by various Nostrami crew members, as well as there being a number of unlockables to collect throughout the game, such as different characters. The game also requires somewhat of a strategic approach unusual for a survival horror game, as different enemies perpetuate the use of different guns and it can be easy to run out of ammo for specific weapons. I’m impressed by what this game has to offer in its current state but the developers are planning to add even more to it, which will inevitably only serve to heighten the gameplay experience even more.

Controls

The game’s controls are also easy enough to get to grips with. The developers have created a game with a simple control scheme attached to it with no unnecessary complication; it’s a nice and traditional 2D side-scroller that has players blasting through each level in order to progress to the next. The developers haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel in respect of the game’s controls, but with a game like this, it wouldn’t really be necessary. 

Lifespan

As it stands, the game boasts a total of 12 levels; a tutorial level, 9 main levels, a boss fight, and a bonus level. The estimated lifespan as things are at the moment is up to 10 hours taking what replay value there is to be had in replaying the game with different characters. However, the developers are also planning to add another 8 to 9 levels with an additional boss fight and bonus level, which would most likely accelerate the lifespan to 20 hours plus, which for an independently developed 2D side-scroller would be quite impressive.

Storyline

The storyline perpetuates a blend of horror, comedy, and references to old and modern culture. It follows the player character uncovering the events of what happened to the derelict spaceship, the Nostrami, which has been overrun by murderous alien creatures. Again, I found it as funny as I did horrifying with jokes thrown into the background, such as an advertisement for something called The Uranus Probe and items on the cafeteria menu alluding to the film Alien. But at the same time, learning about the Nostrami’s backstory is a particularly harrowing experience making for something as tense as many other survival horror games. The game’s use of full voice acting also makes for a further element of horror that no player will expect to find in an 8-BIT game. 

Originality

Although the game does conform to a lot of tropes associated with the traditional 2D side-scrolling style of play, it has elements to it that make it stand out among many others. It makes me think that this game is what would be developed if id Software decided to make Doom 3 in this style. I was attracted to this game on the basis that it’s a survival horror with not too much emphasis on horror and as much emphasis on gameplay as possible, which, in and of itself, would make it unique among many games in the horror category and I wasn’t disappointed with it; even in it’s unfinished state. 

Overall, I’d recommend old-school gamers, and fans of the survival horror genre for that matter, to check this title out for themselves before it’s full release. You can find it on their GameJolt page at the moment via the link below: 

https://gamejolt.com/games/alienscumbags/312460#video-81040

I will also be conducting a Q&A with one of the game’s principal designers James Ross soon on the blog, so keep a lookout for that. In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoy Alien Scumbags and I hope you’re looking forward to the follow-up Q&a.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

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