Heiankyo Alien 3671 (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 04.11.2017 1

Review for Heiankyo Alien 3671 on PC

Heiankyo, once known as the capital of tranquillity and peace, has become a hotbed of extra-terrestrial chaos. Aliens stalk the streets, chomping on anyone they come in contact with. Trapped in this veritable maze of horrors, one person digs feverishly in order to stop the invaders. Released back in 1979, Heiankyo Alien challenges players to master the art of the shovel. Its simple yet well crafted arcade action is respected the world over. This year, an arranged edition of the classic has arrived, and it's titled Heiankyo Alien 3671. The "3671" in the title stands for 6th March, 1971. That's the birthdate of the developer, Mikito Ichikawa. Offering new modes, as well as an audiovisual makeover, it's time once again to enter the mouth of madness.

Before going any further, there's something that needs to be pointed out. Originally, the plan for this game was strictly to write a review. However, as time went on, there was quite a bit of communication with the developer, offering ideas and suggestions. A fair number of those contributions have made their way into the final product. Honestly, it's a strange feeling for a reviewer to get so invested, especially having never been this involved in the development of a game before. A critic can't get this close, without becoming biased. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to write something, because this has left quite the lasting impression.

Heiankyo Alien 3671 is all about probabilities versus guarantees. Every time the game starts, the player can expect a new layout, so no two mazes are ever alike. The perpetually hungry aliens randomly roam about. They are exceedingly dangerous to the touch, but don't actively pursue anyone brave enough to stand against them. Then there are the hidden treasures, whose locations change with every run. Securing the shiny valuables is an essential part of this score attack. Over the course of a single five minute session, potentially hundreds of situations will present themselves, and the goddess of RNG is rarely known for her benevolence. Maybe the hero will luck out and survive for a few more seconds, or the aliens will doggedly pursue and devour him.

Leaving so much up to random elements is a very risky idea. If the player's success or failure is dependent on luck, then what's the point of skill and strategy? Perhaps this is what makes this title so brilliant. It gives its entire agency to the person holding the controller, allowing them the freedom to make their own luck. Over time, they develop tactics that will guarantee their survival, design their own scoring routes, and make the most of every opportunity that they happen upon. A lot can happen in a very short period of time, but with the right mindset, looking stylish and breaking records will come naturally.

Screenshot for Heiankyo Alien 3671 on PC

However, do not get too far ahead. Seeing as how the goal is to achieve a high score, one must first figure out the multitude of scoring mechanics. First and most important is the "level up" system. Whenever two aliens are destroyed, the level increases. This causes a power-up to appear, while raising the value of collectibles, such as the aforementioned hidden treasures. Higher levels will result in a faster digging speed and more invaders. If the player can eliminate several fiends while avoiding death, their multiplier bonus will increase. Given enough time, everything will be worth nine times its original value.

The complexity only deepens when taking into account all of the subsystems. While traversing the map, the hero can "fortify buildings." In other words, he draws a line around a block. With every level up, a bonus is awarded for each fortified building. Unfortunately, green aliens can shatter these defences. There are also combos, and they occur whenever two or more of the same coloured fiends are eliminated. Attempting to pick out all of the reds or yellows in the extraterrestrial rainbow is a fool's errand, so it's worth grabbing a heart power up, which changes all of the enemies to one colour.

Achieving a high level will require a mastery of the speed boots, invincibility coin, and candy. In order to maximise the effectiveness of these three power ups, players will need a firm understanding of movement and timing. Naturally, the boots increase the hero's running speed. The sudden increase can take some time to get used to, but it's necessary to cover the entirety of the maze in a flash. Unsurprisingly, the coins grant a short period of invincibility, making it possible to demolish several aliens at once. The candy is more a tool for optimisation. If the gluttonous jerks are wandering away from holes or outside the path of an invulnerable speeding warrior, then a tasty treat is needed to lure them back. Granted, with so many aliens on-screen, it doesn't take all that long to bump into one. Still, this is very much a game where every second counts.

The learning curve in Heiankyo Alien 3671 is pretty rough. Controlling the shovel-wielding hero takes a fair amount of practice, doubly so whenever he's wearing speed boots. Good movement becomes essential in the latter parts. Not only should players use their invincibility coins to destroy several aliens at once, they also have to move in such a way to fortify multiple buildings. Managing the chaotic forces requires a thorough understanding of enemy behaviour, as well as the reflexes to adapt to sudden changes. Although lives are unlimited, a couple deaths are usually enough to ruin a potential record breaking run. Seemingly minor slip ups can also be quite punishing. One of the hidden treasures is a gem that doubles the current score. It isn't all that valuable if it's accidentally grabbed too early.

Screenshot for Heiankyo Alien 3671 on PC

Then there's the matter of probabilities versus guarantees. It's not enough to bury the enemies; they must be manipulated and then wiped out. At first, dealing with aliens in this manner is a lot like herding cats. The key is in knowing when and where to dig. Each maze is made up of several intersections. If the player wants to guarantee that they will trap an alien in the next few seconds, they are going to plant a hole in the middle of the intersection. However, if they need to play defensively, or their attention is split among several locations, then that hole needs to be one space off to the side. What this creates is a chance that the alien will turn the corner, and fall in the hole. It's no longer a sure thing, because the fiend can just as easily continue onward, or move in a different direction. This delay might be enough to keep the hero from getting overwhelmed.

Also, partially-dug holes cause aliens to trip and stun themselves. Sometimes it's better to knock them down for a half-second, and make a quick getaway. The baddies can rescue their friends, if they are trapped in a hole, and that can be disastrous. However, if they have merely tripped, then nothing will happen. The player-character is also free to run past the down (but not out) enemy. It's these minor details that will help lead to high scores.

There's no other way to say it, this is the sort of game that cannot be put down for anything. Not since the days of Crazy Taxi has something been so addictive in the score attack field. With every attempt at bettering a record, players will sink deeper into the depths of the abyss. Ensuring the destruction of the aliens, as they erratically wander the maze, becomes very addictive indeed. Every attempt is an instant jolt of pure adrenaline. Before long, you will enter "the zone," eyes transfixed on the prize. It's an experience similar to dodging huge bullet spreads in an STG. The slightest error causes everything to fall apart. There is never any "downtime," so there is not need to wait for something to happen.

Screenshot for Heiankyo Alien 3671 on PC

Alongside the arranged edition, the original Heiankyo Alien is also playable. While it isn't filled to bursting with scoring mechanics, it's still a very deep and thoughtfully designed arcade game. Holes take a while to dig, which keeps players on the defensive. They have to commit to their actions, pay attention to surroundings, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. However, wasting too much time will cause it all to become impossible. The aliens move even faster, and the hero just isn't able to keep up. The port is very solid, and is certain to please enthusiasts.

There's also the omake mode, Glitch Encore Alien 41381. Here's the story of its inclusion. While testing this game, a very odd and amazing glitch was discovered. The candy, which is typically used to lure aliens, had a secret power. While an alien is nibbling on the treat, a hole could be dug under the fiend. Not only did this action destroy them, it caused the hole to become a bottomless pit. In other words, aliens that fell in this hole were instantly destroyed; no need for a burial. With enough candy, players could create a field of death, then sit back and allow the points to roll in.

Needless to say, this glitch broke the scoring system pretty badly. Rather than squash the bug entirely, though, the developer created the omake mode. Admittedly, it is surprising that it turned out as well as it did. At first, alien farming seemed more like a cute extra, but there is some strategy to this mode. Under certain conditions, the aliens can still remove the pits. Further complicating matters is the constant stream of power ups. Only two can appear on-screen at a time, and not collecting them as soon as they appear is a sound method for leaving points on the table. All in all, it's a charming extra. Oh and just in case anyone is wondering, "41381" aka 13th April, 1981 is the birth date of this very reviewer. Nice touch, right?

Aside from the arcade version, each mode supports up to four players, provided they are willing to share a couch together. Admittedly, for this piece, there was no opportunity to play this with more than one person, but the extra hands should lead to some very impressive scores. Online leaderboards are also available, and that's always welcomed with open arms. Sometime in the near future, an "Idol" mode will also be added. There aren't many details, but apparently it's a collaborative effort with Guildoll, the J-Pop group. Each member is going to have their own specific mission, which should be pretty interesting.

Screenshot for Heiankyo Alien 3671 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Heiankyo Alien 3671, with its unique blend of high intensity action and devious problem solving, is the most engrossing game you will play all year. 2017 has seen a slew of excellent releases, but it's this title that will keep you coming back to it again and again. Many a sleepless night will be spent chasing high scores. Adjusting to the controls and scoring mechanics will take time, but the results are well worth the effort.

Developer

Mindware

Publisher

Mindware

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This looks so hardcore! I'm very intrigued, but have a feeling I'd be really bad at it Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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