I recently had some game time with the newly released Super Mutant Alien Assault, developed by Cybernate, and published by Surprise Attack, known for their work with other well-received indie titles.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ndie games always have a special appeal to me as a gamer, especially when you consider the amount of time it takes an individual, or a small team of developers to create a game worth remembering. For me, it isn’t always about the graphics, but rather about the story, intrigue, or sheer fun of it. While there are countless indie games that often spoil the genre with slapstick attempts to make a quick buck or two. Every so often you’ll find something really good, and worth playing over and over again.
Super Mutant Alien Assault is an instant hit. While there are traces of a story playing through in the background, most are taken by the pick-up-and-play nature of the game. I spent no time in learning the controls or gameplay requirements, and yet I was able to enjoy the game for many hours at a time. Even if you’re not an expert, you’re still able to enjoy the simplistic nature of Super Mutant Alien Assault.
While you don’t have to follow much of the storyline and game dynamic, there are a few keys to making good progress, which add to the SMAA’s enjoyment. SMAA’s combat modes are available in solo and co-op, which offer very different experiences. Single player campaigns rely on speed and dexterity. Being able to think quickly about your actions, weapons, and ammunition, as well as the level layout, form a strategic part of the game. Once these basics are overcome, you’ll be able to shoot your way through any situation and alien the game has to offer. Playing through co-op, however, relies more on balance. Whereas single player requires you to traverse the entire stage, co-op only requires you to man your segment of the screen and pick up any leftovers your teammate is unable to deal with on his end. Having some sort of understanding, without ever having to communicate directly, makes for significantly better experiences, as opposed to playing with the typical Rambo that thinks they can do it all. Weapon rotations also play a much more important role, which becomes a skill on its own. Again, playing with someone that hogs the weapons won’t gain much progress after a few rounds.
Once you’ve perfected your gameplay techniques, there are a few other key elements to keep in mind. There’s quite a wide variety of weapons to use. These weapons are provided randomly with varying amounts of ammunition. The weapons machine provides new weapons at particular intervals, so it’s key to find a good balance between killing aliens and using up ammunition, and timing of the next weapon drop. It’s also a good idea to work your way back to the machine as your ammunition depletes or when the next drop is imminent. You’ll also find a few lower-powered sidearms, such as a handgun, within crates that drop randomly from time to time. These crates also hold additional content in terms of explosives, power-ups, and special abilities. These sidearms are your fallback whenever your main weapon runs out of ammunition, giving you time to play with until the next drop. It is worth noting that aliens aren’t as easily destroyed with these sidearms.
As mentioned, crates hold various contents apart from just weapons and explosives. Some special abilities are also dropped on occasion, which appears in the form of defensive moves, special abilities, or random perks. Defensive moves include capabilities such as speed bursts.
While the above-mentioned may make Super Mutant Alien Assault seem quite intense and sophisticated, it isn’t hard to learn, nor is it a necessity to perfect any of it. If you’re a casual gamer, you’ll find more than enough pleasure in running around killing aliens with little to no deep thought on how to achieve it.
Another aspect of what makes the game engrossing is the game’s humor and simplistic graphics. Humour is offered to the player in subtle suggestions, more along the lines of the types of guns, the types of aliens, the deaths, and a few other elements thrown in from across the gaming industry and a smorgasbord of alien movies. The 8-bit graphics are styled by contrasting colors and bright palettes, making it very catching on the eye. While I would suggest that the 8-bit/pixel graphics have been overdone in recent years, how you utilize the platform, along with a few new elements and designs, make it worthwhile. SMAA brought something very distinctive to the table on that front.
At the end of the day, as a standalone, Super Mutant Alien Assault isn’t a novel game, but what works for it is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, if you think back at many other modern, pixel-based games, many of them are more about the humor and fun, as opposed to story-based platformers. And whether you’re a serious gamer, or someone just looking to blow off some steam, SMAA works on both levels and is definitely worth a look. What’s good about this title is that it’s available across various platforms, Windows PC, PS4, and XB1, and sells for roughly R100.