Aliens Go Home Run (PC) Review

By David Kelly 12.02.2017

Review for Aliens Go Home Run on PC

No matter what any game historian may name as the first video game - and because of several technical differences between early games, there are a few candidates - all will agree that the bat and ball genre is one that was part of the birth of video games. Tennis for Two, Pong and Breakout all share characteristics because of the core game mechanic involving reflecting a ball into the playfield off something under the control of the player. It's a genre that has suffered with clumsy attempts at recreation on modern platforms largely because of the failure of modern control options to recreate the accuracy and immediacy of the rotatable paddle controls of the day. Even modern equivalents such as the mouse and analogue stick are poor substitutes for those who experienced the original games, and it's understandable that the genre has largely disappeared.

Even Atari, a huge figure in the pioneering days of gaming, saw that the genre needed to be adjusted to take account for the vanishing paddle—and its late Atari 2600 catalogue addition, Off the Wall, with its joystick-based control, is an attempt at addressing the issue. The only notable update to the genre, Arkanoid, is only successful because of its use of a rotary control in the arcade, and ports to the home are not successful because of this. New entries in the genre are limited to independent developers occasionally producing modern takes on the format, which are sadly hobbled by the same control restraints, and unfortunately, unless the underlying game design is addressed, will be largely ignored.

Along comes Anim•Ace with Aliens Go Home Run, who has actually made an attempt at a modern take on the genre, addressing the issues raised by the use of digital control. The developer has created a fusion of the bat and ball genre with overtones of the 2D shooter to create an enjoyable fusion of the two, which deserves a measure of recognition, if not commercial success.

The game has an unusual scenario - an alien invasion defended against by a baseball player. Levels are familiar to anyone who has played Arkanoid - a layout of coloured bricks are presented at the top half of the screen and level completion is achieved by hitting them all enough times with a ball; in this case, a baseball. The player controls a human figure dressed in baseball attire and armed with a bat that is swung to hit the ball upwards. Directional control, a source of frustration in older games, allows the player to aim the ball around the level with a reasonable amount of accuracy when the current speed of the ball and its direction have to be taken into account. The control scheme is simple, but has subtleties that reward those prepared to experiment.

Screenshot for Aliens Go Home Run on PC

The main departure from the genre is the fact that allowing the ball to hit the ground does not result in the loss of a life. Depending on its speed, the ball will just bounce, allowing another hit on the move, or will just lie on the ground waiting to be hit back into the level again. Levels are peppered with enemies that fire aimed shots at the baseball player, but a single hit will not result in a life loss; instead the baseball theme is continued, as it takes three hits to do this. The enemies also require several hits to dispatch, but are stunned when hit, which prevents them from temporarily firing. Even disposing of enemies is only a temporary relief, as they regenerate after a period of time - thus ensuring that even disposing of the final bricks of a level is a taught exercise of bullet dodging.

The batter is moved left and right under directional control, and there is a slide button that can give a burst of speed with the added benefit of being able to pass through bullets unscathed. This scheme allows for skilful navigation of bullets, and in the later levels, even getting to the ball is a challenge without picking up a hit.

Power-ups are dropped onto the floor of the level, and there is a Gradius style power-up selection system allowing the selection of defensive items, including restoration of a hit with one power-up, through to the temporary ability to fire a laser weapon up the screen at the enemies and bricks.

Screenshot for Aliens Go Home Run on PC

Levels are grouped into batches of 10, with a boss fight every fifth level. Boss fights are slightly different in that the aim is to hit the boss a set number of times, and the bricks removed by the ball regenerate forming a re-energising shield between the batter and enemy.

As the levels progress, new enemies and new behaviours are steadily introduced, which keeps the interest up. Indestructible pinball style bumpers start to appear and these create walls within the brick layouts that require the mastery of directional control that isn't really needed in the earlier levels. Some indestructible enemies also appear, whose task is to restrict the batter's movement by dropping onto the ground and remaining there for a short time.

There are hints at a score attack nature of the game too—as long as the ball keeps hitting enemies and bricks without hitting the ground, a score multiplier builds up, which perhaps will draw players who enjoy high score chasing back once levels are completed. Best scores and times are recorded for each level.

Screenshot for Aliens Go Home Run on PC

Graphically, Aliens Go Home Run is designed in a style that is reminiscent of the 16-bit days, with pleasing hand drawn 2D sprite work of a good level of design and quality—the batter reminds of the characters in Treasure's Gunstar Heroes. The backgrounds are fairly uninspiring, but importantly don't get in the way obscuring any of the gameplay elements. The sounds are complementary to the look of the game, with typically "gurgley" 16-bit soundtrack and sound effects. The background and music changes every 10 levels, which is welcome, as the tunes can start to grind a bit, but they are jolly, upbeat, and it's a matter of personal taste.

Presentation-wise, the theme of baseball is continued through the game, from the backgrounds to the level select screen, which is styled liked a stadium scoreboard. There is a short introductory cut-scene that explains the alien invasion as a result of an errant baseball somehow landing on their planet!

Control is configurable and supports keyboard and pad. Music and sound effects volumes are adjustable and mutable. Progress is saved, and any completed level can be selected and replayed. There is an "extras" option in the menu, but either the reviewer has not unlocked anything yet or more will be revealed in later releases. Technically, everything works well with responsive controls. The game also features the ability to create and play custom levels, and there is a level editor to facilitate this.

Screenshot for Aliens Go Home Run on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Aliens Go Home Run is a solid package and injects new life into the genre, presenting a unique and enjoyable game with elements of the bat and ball genre, while requiring bullet-dodging skills of 2D shooting games. There is enough variety as levels progress to keep the player motivated, and the score attack aspect and the custom level feature may keep the dedicated coming back once the last level is completed.

Developer

ANIM•ACE

Publisher

ANIM•ACE

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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