In a classic videogame setup, Alien Hominid opens with an alien spaceship crashing to Earth. The alien escapes and chaos erupts as a result. Sounds familiar, right? Stop the alien from destroying Earth, yada yada yada. Only this time, you arenâ€™t playing Earthâ€™s brave defenders. No, this time you are a little yellow alien that is seriously pissed off about his spaceship being stolen by FBI thugs and is hell-bent and determined to get it back.
You play as the titular Alien Hominid, a little yellow guy with an infectious grin and a talent for mayhem. He (It?) has a nice set of moves, including your basic jump and shoot stuff, but also rolls, burrowing, head riding, head biting and one really big knife. All of this happens in glorious, hand-drawn, 2D side-scrolling environments. The game has the look and feel of a great cartoon, something like Invader Zim crossed with Lilo and Stitch, spiced with a dash of weirdness a la Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Itâ€™s powerful weird and extremely fun.
Like the great side-scrollers of the past, the game is all about avoiding being hit. A single, glowing bullet will send you to your doom and the enemies will dole out plenty of them. Every move in the little yellow freakâ€™s arsenal will be needed to stay alive while bringing the pain to the FBI forces that hold your ship hostage. Like the great side-scrollers from the days of yore, the power-ups have the ability to change the game and add a lot of fun to the equation. You have spread guns, fireballs, poison gas, freeze rays and more. Your alien is also equipped with a limited number of grenades, which take on the attributes of whichever power-up your main gun enjoys. The power-ups have limited ammo but while they last, they are great fun. The death animations change with the gun, so the fireballs reduce the enemy to a pile of ash, the freeze lets you shatter them, etc.
If you like to get up close and personal, you also have a big knife which will cut your enemies in half and when you are properly excited, you can jump on their heads and perform an awesome head bite to dispatch them.
Not enough? How about vehicles? Many levels feature vehicles you can commandeer and run around in. While in a vehicle, you are effectively invincible. Until the vehicle is destroyed you can run amok without fear, running over your enemies with a goofy grin and inimitable style.
The levels are really nicely designed, with lots of hidden power-ups, strategically valuable nooks and crannies, and varied challenges. The gameâ€™s sense of humor is incorporated into the level design in lots of small ways, with lots of little jokes to be discovered if you can find the time to look at the scenery in the midst of the action.
The action gets pretty intense, too. At times the screen is alive with more than they eye can follow, necessitating a Zen-like mastery of the controls, inhuman reflexes and a bit of blind luck to survive. If you are particularly good or bad at side-scrollers, fear not, multiple levels of difficulty are available.
If you have friends, invite them over. Alien Hominid has a great co-operative mode that just throws another little yellow buddy onscreen to help you kill and compete for the precious power-ups. The addition of a buddy increases the game from super fun to insanely fun, so donâ€™t hesitate to call in reinforcements. When you need a break from the basic game, there are plenty of mini-games that allow you to compete against your friends, including a super old school platformer, in the vein of Lode Runner, that has its own level editor!
As mentioned, the graphics are beautiful. Itâ€™s all hand-draw 2D sprites, beautifully smooth animations, and twisted humor. The sound is similarly well done. The sound effects and music are both great and really add to the overall mood of the game.
In case it isnâ€™t obvious, I love this game. Frantic, old school gameplay plus a great visual style, multiplied by a terrific sense of humor equals a lot of fun. Alien Hominid is one of my favorite games of the year and goes a long way towards proving you donâ€™t need lots of fancy graphical doodads and the latest flavor-of-the-month gameplay to make a great game. After you realize that this yearâ€™s overhyped â€œmasterpiecesâ€ once again feature more talking, watching and loading than playing, pick this up. Youâ€™ll be glad you did.