By Jorge Ba-oh 13.04.2013
There's something suitably retro about 2D side-scrolling shooters. Players whisk through platform-based levels, storming a load of enemies with a platter of bullets in a bid to leave nothing in their wake and take down the enemy at the end. Alien Chaos 3D aims to do things a little differently by keeping the player in an enclosed space, a room or section of an exterior and spawning waves of enemies who have only one goal in mind, to pounce and peck until the life metre drops to zero. It's the classic take on the contemporary horde mode in modern shooters and a throwback to games like Total Carnage and Berzerk. Can a retro concept reignite the arcade feeling in a world filled with explosive first-person shooters and fantasy adventures?
There are differences in Alien Chaos 3D though, to shake up what might be considered a fairly shallow concept from the synopsis. The protagonist of Alien Chaos 3D, appropriately christened "The Shooter," works in the scrap metal business with his mother. One day during an arduous slog, an armada of aliens swarm the city and nab the poor mother and it's down to the player to suit up and rescue before these extra-terrestrials get their mitts on her goods. Perhaps she holds the key to mass worldwide takeover, maybe they wish to extract her cleaning secrets or, better still, she might be the totty they wish to toy with. Whatever the case, it's down to you to work through five chapters, each broken down into smaller levels, and save the day.
The storyline feeds into the game mechanics nicely. Instead of just relentlessly pummelling the enemy, the shooter has to clean up both the explosions left on the wall plus sweep up alien debris. Giving the walls a scrub can only be done when standing still and not shooting, so takes decent timing to slip in-between waves. Doing so builds up a special meter that can be unleashed when maxxed out for a quick release of energy that zaps nearby foes. Sweeping, on the other hand, provides a different role. The left-behinds from bullet shells and enemy bits can be bundled up and churned into designated recycling chutes. Once full, these release new weapons or ammo, so it needs to be continually done to keep well equipped. The mechanics are certainly unique; giving that extra layer of depth to what would be a fairly straightforward challenge. It also keeps people on their toes and restricts camping to a degree.
Alien Chaos 3D does essentially what it says on the tin; an arcade flavour and various different environments to contend with. From the outset the challenge and uniqueness is there, but after a handful of levels things begin to become far too repetitive. Enemies aren't the typical slimy critters; instead there are bouncing robot kangaroos, hedgehogs and other mechanical Aussie aliens to turn into scrap metal. From the fourth or fifth level you will wish to never see these creatures again, aiming for a more powerful gun to try and speed things up. The platform elements are a little to sparse too; fair given the nature of an enclosed space but perhaps could have been better implemented to give some variety later on in the campaign.
Graphically the experience isn't anything stellar, but it doesn't need to be. Alien Chaos 3D fits the theme well, blending in more 90s-esque inspiration; urban environments on Earth become infested with a lick of alien paint as the goal of saving mother grows closer. The use of 3D offers layering between background and the foreground action, but does tend to be fairly jarring on the eyes - a game like this is likely suited for the more traditional 2D output instead. The musical score is a little more adventurous, inviting rock guitar and synth riffs that too are reminiscent of the classic shooters, in particular the original Duke Nukem 2D games.
Once the campaign is done and dusted, there are a range of different challenges to tackle and StreetPass options to exchange those high scores with the anonymous public.
Alien Chaos 3D is a worthy addition to the Nintendo 3DS eShop roster. It's a retro-inspired adventure, high on action and pulls at the nostalgia strings. Worth considering at the price, but leaves little replay value unless you are keen on investing time in getting those high scores.