Developer(s) – Monster Finger Games
Designer – James Ross
PEGI – Unknown (mature content)
The first title from Southampton-based studio Monster Finger games, Alien Scumbags is an 8-BIT sci-fi side-scrolling shoot ’em up survival horror game with light RPG elements, presenting a very balanced mixture of horror and comedy littered with references to classic games. I’d been following this title for some months before its release having drafted up first impressions article and interviewed the game’s principal designer James Ross:
I’d been excited for the release of this game for quite some time and when it finally made the jump from its original platform on Game Jolt to Steam, I wasn’t disappointed.
Graphics – 8/10
The game is set on a spaceship gone dark named the Nostrami, which is infested with hostile alien lifeforms; the best way I can describe the overall feel of the game is it being an 8-bit version of Dead Space. Like the game Lone Survivor, it makes use of lighting despite its retro 8-BIT visual style. But in my opinion, this game makes better use of lighting than the former, as there is lighting from more sources, therefore making it look much more detailed and there much more atmospheric.
The scenery design is also unprecedentedly varied for a game set in one location; there are not only references to other games scattered all over the place, but references to popular horror movies like Alien and It. The game’s soundtrack also accompanies the horrific atmosphere of the Nostrami particularly well in addition, making use of otherworldly synthesized tunes and sound effects designed to emulate the human heartbeat present in the first level.
Gameplay – 8/10
With a gameplay structure similar to Doom, players are tasked with blasting their way through hordes of alien enemies and uncovering secrets throughout each level, such as hidden areas, additional perks, and easter eggs. There are also multiple characters to unlock (again, modeled after iconic video game characters), with their own unique abilities, giving the game replay value since each character offers a new experience with every playthrough. It’s a survival horror with the vast majority of focus being on gameplay, which, unlike many in mainstream survival horror series’, does pretty well.
Controls – 10/10
As the side-scrolling genre has been redefined and reinvented over many decades in gaming, the control scheme presents no issues in this title. It’s a very bread and butter style of play that both fans of retro gaming and newer generation players alike will be able to pick up and enjoy very easily without having to worry about the logistics of the controls.
Lifespan – 8/10
The game’s lifespan consists of around 20 hours of gameplay, which goes above and beyond many classic side-scrolling titles that gained popularity throughout the NES era, but there is also new content being planned for the game in addition, as the game is still being tweaked and by the developers. In the future, depending on the game’s final lifespan when all content is released, then the game’s score may have to be updated, but even in its current state, 20 hours is an exceptional amount of time for a game of its ilk to last.
Storyline – 7/10
The basic premise of the game is extremely simple; board the Nostrami and take the ship back from the horde of aliens that have killed the crew and invaded the ship. There’s a comedic intro at the beginning giving the player the rundown of the situation, but where the game’s story truly lies is in its backstory that is discovered by the player as the game progresses, provided they can find the crew recordings scattered across each level. It adds a real layer of horror that players may not necessarily expect going into it, which provides that unique balance of scares and laughs that’s quite frankly unusual for a survival horror title.
Originality – 7/10
Although the game is essentially one giant easter egg of references to gaming and to popular culture, its unique balance of comedy and horror certainly helps it stand out among many survival horror series to have been released throughout the years; all the while keeping the emphasis on what truly matters, which is the gameplay. I’ve been frustrated by games like The Last of Us, Journey, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which has shown promise and not delivered on what was expected of them as games, but with this title, you know exactly what you’re getting from the get-go, and what it delivers on is what players want.
Overall, Alien Scumbags is an extremely enjoyable title; two-and-a-half-year labor of love that gamers old and new will not be disappointed with. It’s’ a scary, funny, and intense experience throughout and I can’t recommend it enough
8/10 (Very Good)