Review: Alien Brigade (Atari 7800)

In this game, we give the Atari 7800 game Alien Brigade our best shot. We find out how well this shooting gallery game plays.

This game was released in 1990.

You are faced with an enemy alien force. They have the ability to make themselves look human, though they are the ones firing their weapons at you. You have to complete a number of objectives to continue on.

In each mission, you not only have to defend yourself, but also complete an objective. What that objective is is typically unclear. Unearthing this objective is generally a case of trial and error.

Because of this trial and error requirement, the game ends up being a frustrating one. It took several attempts to get the first level correct. As it turns out, there is some sort of evacuation order made. At the end of the level, you have to allow a chopper to land and rescue a whole bunch of soldiers. Because the other helicopters are enemies, it’s hard to figure this out.

In the second level, I’m assuming the objective is to survive and reduce civilian casualties. It wasn’t clear at all to me, but the game let me proceed to the third level.

In the third level, the objective is apparently to defend an underwater base. Again, something that is unclear, but by the time I figured this out, I ran out of health and died.

You control some crosshairs. On some levels, you get a secondary weapon. In the first level, you get grenades. Otherwise, you are firing a machine gun that seems to automatically reload. You get 99 clips which seems to be more than enough. The game automatically scrolls through the area, scanning the buildings and scenery.

Your health meter is located on the top right hand corner. Instead of a health bar or percentage, you get a bizarre picture of a row of soldiers. As you take damage, the furthest soldier to the right gradually sinks below your score. If all of them sink below the score, then you die. With this system, it’s hard to really keep track of your health at all times.

There are item pickups along the way. Some items restore your health while other items replenish your ammo. to get the items, you have to shoot them on the screen (something that I’m sure makes perfect sense to most people who play this game).

Despite the strange layout of this game, the general information is pretty straight forward to understand. Unfortunately, in the chaos, the information just fades out of your peripheral vision as you struggle to fend off the alien attacks while trying to shoot as few civilians as possible. given the somewhat fast-paced nature of the game, this can be pretty difficult to do.

The controls are also fairly straight forward and easy to understand as well. The controls do help ease the difficulty of this game somewhat.

Given the level requirements for advancement, this game was too hard to get into. I lost interest long before I could have a chance to enjoy it. Because of the unclear objectives, this game relies almost exclusively on memory work on certain areas just to keep moving through the levels. No prior knowledge likely means no advancement.

Generally speaking, this is one of those games that are long on weaknesses and short on strengths. The objective system holds this game back like a boat anchor. All the enjoyment gets sucked out of the game as you try and figure out what it is you’re supposed to do. The controls do make things a little easier as they are easy to understand. Still, it’s a tall order for me to really find this game enjoyable.

Graphically speaking, while this game has a lot of higher end detail, it still pails in comparison to some NES titles. This includes Mega Man 2 and Cobra Triangle (both of which were released a year earlier. The effort is pretty good, but still falls behind the competition from other consoles. The Heads Up Display (HUD) didn’t really work that well given the nature of the game. If you want fast information at specific moments of the game, it’s not going to happen with this one.

The music is OK, but nothing spectacular. The sound effects are also OK, but nothing huge.

Overall, this is one of those games that has one feature holding it back severely. That is the objective system. You aren’t told what to do, you just hope for the best and guess at what you need to do. Guess correctly and move on. Guess incorrectly, and you can find yourself repeating levels. One strength is the fact that the game has pretty good controls. The graphics were OK, but the HUD just didn’t work that well for the type of game. The audio wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t terrible either. Overall, this may be a passable experience, but there is a lot better out there.

Furthest point in game: Level 3 just past the glass dome. Didn’t catch the score unfortunately.

General gameplay: 14/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 58%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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