Alien Syndrome (Wii) Review

By Mike Mason 13.10.2007

Alien Syndrome is the first in a line of old-games-remade by Sega coming to Wii soon, preceding NiGHTs, Sega Bass Fishing and Samba De Amigo. A manical space shoot 'em up, the original Alien Syndrome first turned up in arcades in the late 1980s and was well-liked by many gamers – 20 years on, can the 2007 edition of Alien Syndrome stand up?

The inspiration behind Alien Syndrome clearly lies with the film series that makes up part of its name. Set years after the arcade original, you take control of Aileen Harding as she is sent on a mission to clear out a space station which has become infested with alien life forms, saving any surviving inhabitants along the way – and that’s about all the introduction that is needed, story-wise. The gameplay has evolved a bit from the first game, though; while it is still mainly rooted in the realm of shoot ‘em up, now RPG elements have been attached to increase the longetivity and variety of the title.

Wii and PSP aren’t exactly the most likely candidates to share a dual release, but for some reason that’s the path that Sega/Totally Games took when developing Alien Syndrome. Unfortunately, this route also seemed to include sharing assets amongst the games, resulting in one of the most hideous looking Wii games we’ve seen yet. In fact, it seems almost as if development was started on PSP and then Wii development was hastily added alongside it once the Wii was released to above-expected interest in the market. The characters have a low poly-count that would make the PS1 blush a little bit, the corridors all look bland and the same, and a large amount of the enemies either fall into the categories of either ‘unidentifiable’ or ‘just crawled out of a toilet’ – neither of these categories being used by us in a way that would be good when applied to a monster (they do get better later on, but only slightly). We can’t understand why any company would be happy to release a game looking like this in this day and age - though it looks alright on PSP, thanks to the small screen, it’s just a mess on a TV screen. The in-game graphics are particularly mortifying after seeing some of the story sections, which consist of hand-drawn stills that are really very good. It’s clear that there’s some art direction behind the game when seeing these, but it hasn’t come across very well at all. On the plus side, the shadows are all accurate and change properly according to whatever weapon you’re using even with the most subtle of differences between weapons, and the fire effects are passable, so it could be worse. We wouldn’t really like to imagine any worse, though.

The majority of the game consists of you running around shooting at whatever creatures crawl out of the woodworks in an effort to get to the end of the levels. However, there are RPG elements included too, which add variety. Upon starting a game you are asked to choose your style of character, which dictates what weapons you will begin with and specialise in. Depending on your selection you can be an expert in explosives, incendiaries, melee weapons or projectile weapons, though you can change your area of expertise over as you play through the game. These categories also determine your starting statistics. As you play you earn points which can be added to the statistics of your choice to improve your overall health, strength, etc.. You can also upgrade weaponry and armour on the fly by using collectable points to help you handle the larger foes. This means there are a number of ways you can choose to play the game which alter the play experience. Sadly, upgrading some of Aileen’s statistics can only be done after beating mini-games, which are confusing, badly explained and made very little sense to us. Even once we figured them out, we’d be hard-pushed to call them anything close to fun.

Although the battling of the aliens is the action core of the game, rather than the RPG elements, it’s disappointing. In a nutshell, all you actually do is battle masses of aliens and wade your way through mazes of corridors. This wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that all of the corridors look the same, leading to you getting lost or confused far more often than is acceptable. There is a map in the corner of the screen to try to prevent this, but at times we just found it more helpful to wander blindly until we found the correct route, as the map doesn’t seem to show the correct ways to go and doesn’t mark up where there are dead ends completely accurately. The poorly designed aliens make for a decent challenge, but not because the AI is any good – in fact, they’re all incredibly stupid and the majority can be bested by just running around them firing/hitting them repeatedly until they die, even including some of the bosses. No, it is merely because there are so many of them. They completely swarm you and very obviously re-spawn even when you only walk a few feet to the side after dispatching them (sometimes even while you are still on the same screen as them), which strikes us as unfair and cheap. Enemies that can shoot projectiles can actually fire through other enemies in a physics-defying twist, leading to unnecessary injury. Also, you actually end up using melee weaponry a lot of the time as there isn’t enough ammunition available to deal with the sheer amount of enemies, which doesn’t seem very well planned out.

The icing on the cake is the controls. The basic commands such as shooting are fine, with your primary and secondary weapons mapped to the A and B buttons, but navigating menu systems is a tad confusing – any game that explains, during its tutorial sections, to access a certain menu section you must press the ‘+’ key three times has something wrong with it. Melee weapons are controlled with a press of the B button, but to use the stronger attacks motions must be made, which randomly are not picked up; a concentrated effort has to be made to swipe the remote to slash at enemies, but jabbing forward to stab usually works well. The worst offender, though, is the camera. Players can control it by twisting the nunchuk, but this just doesn’t work neatly. Sometimes you have to turn the ‘chuk so much that it’s practically upside down before it’ll recognise that you want to move the camera, whilst other times you can slightly adjust the position of your hand and the world will go spinning madly around. It’s very frustrating, and we wish there was an option to switch off manual movement of the camera if it had to be done in this way. We do endorse the quick access to medical aid, though, with a press of right on the d-pad, as it’s needed fairly often with the overbearing enemies, and the aiming of the guns is well done. By pointing with the remote when you have a gun as your active weapon, you move a reticule around to shoot in whichever direction you like, making running and gunning very easy and satisfying. Now if only there were enough bullets hanging around to be able to do that constantly…

Alien Syndrome isn’t all bad, but it does suffer from absolutely terrible choices. It clearly needed more time and work on it before release. The same game should not have been developed for both Wii and PSP. The controls should have been better thought out. The mini-games should have been canned before they even made it off the drawing board. For all this, though, there are positives to behold: the RPG elements are quite good, the aiming controls work very well, there are around 40 levels which ensure a long game if you enjoy this kind of thing, and up to four player co-op play makes the whole thing more fun. We’d rather play the original Alien Syndrome than this update, but there is some potential to be built upon if some more thought and effort was put into another sequel.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 4 out of 10


We expected much more, but perhaps we should have remained wary from the offset, with the same identical game being created for both PSP and Wii. There are moments where it feels good (which we hope can be expanded on for a decent follow-up, or be applied to another game entirely), but mainly it leaves a bitter taste. Go and watch the Aliens movies or play the original Alien Syndrome instead.






Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (4 Votes)

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


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