Does the presence of Super Mutant Alien Assault mean that at one time there was just a regular Mutant Alien Assault? I’m not certain, but what is clear is that Super Mutant Alien Assault is a lot of fun.
There’s all sorts of ways to grab the games-playing public’s attention. You can announce a tie-up with a famous band, or a notable brand, or simply rest on the laurels of an existing game franchise. You can opt for loads of buxom babes wearing little but some strapped on guns if you’re after a certain kind of demographic.
Or you can, as Super Mutant Alien Assault does, declare yourself “The Citizen Kane Of Super Crate Box Clones”. That’s bold — it certainly got my attention — and at the same time cheeky, given it rather clearly delineates its heritage.
Currently in Steam Early Access, Super Mutant Alien Assault is a single screen, heavily pixellated Windows-only shooter that takes the core mechanics of Super Crate box — an endless stream of enemies and randomly spawning guns to kill them with — and cranks up the difficulty and complexity with a variety of additional mission objectives, whether it’s venting gas capsules that will otherwise explode, or delivering fuel pods to an engine to allow hyperspace travel. Also, as the name implies, the Aliens are mutants, which means that if you don’t off them quickly, they’ll mutate into an even more dangerous form.
That sounds bleak, but instead the aesthetic in Super Mutant Alien Assault is one of cheery ridicule of the entire concept. Sure, you’ve got your regular machine guns and rocket launchers to take out the aliens, but there’s also options for plasma chakrams (Xena would be proud) and exploding pogo sticks of doom. It’s hard not to crack a smile when you’re gleefully bouncing on the head of an Alien Monstrosity From Beyond The Stars(tm).
If you care, you’re a tiny robot keeping the frozen humans on board safe from the eponymous Super Mutant Aliens any way you can. Then again, if you care about the plot you care about the wrong thing, because this is, above and beyond anything else, a straight up arcade shooter. You’re not likely to play it for hours at a time per se, but as a quick get up and blast game, it’s nicely gripping.
In the best tradition of this style of game, you’re never left waiting for the action to come to you, or you’re never alive for very long if you do. Super Mutant Alien Assault throws waves of enemies at you, and simply dodging them long enough to get to a weapon pod is a challenge, especially on later levels. Weapon drops are entirely random, which means that you’re constantly changing your strategy, because what works with a sniper rifle is nowhere near as effective with a bazooka or sniper rifle. It’s playable either in single or two player multiplayer, and naturally its single screen nature means that with two players onscreen it’s quite hectic in that knockabout, laughabout way that a lot of arcade titles were.
Also, every time I type “Super Mutant Alien Assualt”, I can’t help but wonder if there will be a SEGA version, presumably titled “Mega Mutant Alien Assault”. Is it just me?
Super Mutant Alien Assault is on Steam Early Access at $9.99. That’s a reasonable price right now for what it already does, but being in early access means that it’s also got some room for fine tuning or additional content drops. It doesn’t seem likely that the core game will change that much, and I can’t say I’ve hit any really clanging bugs to speak of yet, but fine tuning is always welcome.
Super Mutant Alien Assault does feel to me rather more like a mobile game — and if the developers could sort out control issues for touch interfaces, it would fit into the short and frantic mobile game space very neatly — but it’s so far doing a top job of living up to its self styled “Citizen Kane Of Super Crate Box Clones” billing. Then again, I’m a gamer who loves the Citizen Kane of Alcoholic Clown movies, so maybe your taste will differ.