Alien Soldier (Genesis) review
"Twenty five bite-sized levels of pure mayhem, anyway. Because Alien Soldier isn't about stomping through waves of underlings and mass-produced cannon fodder; it's about going toe-to-toe with some of the sickest and most malevolent bosses imaginable."
Turn your brain off for a second -- because the upcoming plot summary is going to get ugly.
The planet Sierra isn't the holiday hot-spot it used to be. The native Sierrians have long been oppressed by an underground rebellious faction know as SCARLET, a faction consisting of bio-engineered super-beings with amazing strength and powers -- including the parasitic ability to possess humans, animals and machines -- that are hell-bent on destroying the ground-dwellers above them. They plot and they kill, stopping the Sierrians from fleeing the planet whilst engaging in wholesale slaughter at the drop of a hat, all the while led by enigmatic birdman, Epsilon-Eagle.
Yes, he's a birdman and his last name is Eagle. It gets worse.
Epsilon is soon usurped by the power-mad Xi-Tiger and thrown into a time-space anomaly, leaving SCARLET in the hands of the rogue upstart. Under Xi-Tiger, the faction engages in an even more bloodthirsty path that upsets the followers so much that they call for a return to command by their banished ex-leader. Annoyed at the lack of balls from his whiny followers, Xi-Tiger decides that the best course of action is to reopen the time-space rift so he can kill Epsilon once and for all! The only way to do this is to randomly attack an out-of-the-way research lab that just happens to hold kidnapped children with psychic abilities, as was the trend at the time.
Upon arriving at his destination, his shadowy powers are quick to detect Epsilon's presence within one of the captured youths, but cannot pin down which one because there is no sense of evil surrounding it. In an attempt to draw his former commander out, he grabs up a small girl and threatens to slaughter her unless Epsilon reveals himself. Overcome with rage, one of the boys morphs into the feathered warrior of doom, causing Xi-Tiger to flee in fear. But not before killing the young girl, as lords of darkness are wont to do.
Epsilon: Xi-Tiger! I will never let you get away!
Turn your brain back on. Because lurking behind this ridiculously convoluted plot lays a particularly tight shooter from Treasure that seems to follow in the footsteps of the more widely-published Gunstar Heroes. But, this time, with a side order of annihilation!
This new Epsilon/Sierrian hybrid contains all the powers of the former terrorist but with the inner justice of a child. Now fighting back against his old faction, Epsilon will show himself more than capable of carving his own path of destruction through a collection of mutated minions and overgrown oddities. He can surge from one end of the screen to the other, ignoring all obstacles in his path until his momentum is broken; he can summon up a small localised shield with a double-tap of his attack button, neutralising some enemy projectiles while deflecting others back to sender; he can hover in mid-jump to either issue forth a stream of firepower or use it as a makeshift platform to double-jump onto ceilings where he can happily traverse, merrily running upside-down above the heads of his hapless foes. The list of tricks at his disposal continues, and he'll need to use every last one if he is to battle his way through 25 levels of pure mayhem and extract his long-awaited revenge.
Twenty five bite-sized levels of pure mayhem, anyway. Because Alien Soldier isn't about stomping through waves of underlings and mass-produced cannon fodder; it's about going toe-to-toe with some of the sickest and most malevolent bosses imaginable.
Sure, it starts off easy enough; you stroll through a futuristic wasteland seeing off the unwanted attentions of cycloptic snot-balls and bomb-spewing smurfs that fall all too easily to the onslaught issued from either of the six selectable and interchangeable firearms you start the game with before coming up against an electric blue serpent. Your first real encounter slithers and pogos around the screen, hurling boomerang-shaped volleys of plasma your way and forcing you to abuse your rapid charge from one side of the screen to the other to rain death at its hide. Running through the rest of the chapter will introduce you to the Lanky Ant, a boss that stalks you aggressively with erratic stumblings, Chef Stabby, a turtle/kenji-style samurai that spins around the screen holding out its oversized katana out like a buzz-saw, and Pickled Foetus Boss, a wrinkly harbinger of doom with a phallic little helper that bursts forth from a pale beige torso while a swarm of sickly dragonflies barrage you with death from above.
These are the easy and relatively normal foes.
On your way to Xi-Tiger, you'll have to battle through an abandoned train station, where tripping the metal-detectors will set off a flurry of security alarms, summoning a hulking cobalt robot from the rafters to assault you with missiles and chainguns. Survive this, and it's onto the train itself, where you will eventually have to take the to roof, braving the gushing winds that drive you to the back of the screen. Here, you do battle with Bob, a zombified dragon corpse that is kept airborne by the helicopter rotors grafted to its rotting back and is all too happy to belch waves of napalm death at you. Survive this, and the winds will subside, allowing you to progress further along the rooftop while a gargantuan wyrm flies overhead, flinging plasma fire and smaller versions of itself at you. Dodge its attack, or miraculously kill it, and you will find your path blocked by a well-built man in a dapper-looking tuxedo. Give him a few seconds to convulse wildly, and he'll morph into a mammoth werewolf that fills the screen with talons and claws. Odds are, he'll kill you.
But dying isn't the setback most people would have you believe; a password system lets you pick up the game from where you left off with minimal hassle and zero replaying. Fell to the headless orangutan with elongated arms and a habit of smashing you off your koala-driven speedboat? You are but a simple retry away from your vengeance. The projectile-spewing eel finished you off with a hard-to-avoid torrent of lobster rain? Note down the 4-digit password and return later to settle the score. The floating atom-monster blew you off your comfy perch with a gale-force wind attack, forcing you to drown in the murky depths below? He'll keep for later, if that is your wish. Alien Soldier is pure pick-up-and-play -- it's made entirely out of that indispensable just-one-more-go factor and mindless mayhem. A concoction of chaos complemented by a refreshing tang of availability.
How Epilson came to be may be a convoluted, overly-complex mess, but he and his adventures are not. You want something new to sink your teeth into? You want to hone those split-second reflexes in what may be the king of 2D shooters? You need look no further, my friends, salvation is at hand.
And neither he, nor you, will stop until the final enemy drops.
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