With Metroid as its inspiration, Infestation has a lot to live up to.
With the end of the DS’ lifespan fast approaching, few big games remain on the horizon for the dying system. As one of the last big DS third-party titles, Aliens: Infestation has a lot on its shoulders. Does WayForward’s Aliens-inspired Metroidvania title have what it takes to be the swan song that the DS needs in its final hours?
In Aliens: Infestation, you take control of one of 19 marines assigned to the starship USS Sulaco. Your job is to eradicate the alien menace, but to do so you must first find ways to unlock the various areas of the ship. In true Metroidvania fashion, you must find upgrades that allow you to progress to different areas inside the ship and beyond.
The game’s story takes place after the second movie in the Aliens franchise. However, for those not well versed in the series, the story serves only to get in the way of the action. Fortunately, the forgettable dialog can be easily skipped, though there are parts of the game that would have left me at a loss had I skipped through it.
As for the gameplay, much of the game’s combat involves slowly walking backwards while shooting at an enemy. However, some instances require a bit more strategy, especially when there are multiple xenomorphs on the screen. In these cases, you can roll away from them to line up a shot or chuck a grenade, but you must be wary of your stamina meter. If it runs out you will have to wait for it to refill before you are able to run or roll again. Nevertheless, the above is only true for fighting the xenomorphs. Fighting other humans quickly devolves into a game of whack-a-marine, in which you wait patiently behind cover to fire at them as they rear their head.
With only a limited amount of xenomorphs and humans, the enemy variety is lacking. In a game where you find unique weapons that vary from a shotgun to a flamethrower, it is slightly disappointing that you only have a few enemy types to use them on. Most of the later enemies are simply palette swaps of earlier ones. This remains true with the bosses as well. Out of all of them, only one is significantly different from the others.
Ignoring the game’s combat, what truly makes Infestation a Metroidvania title is the exploration. You explore a few different areas throughout the game, and one of the most rewarding aspects of this is when you find a fellow marine. Each of the 19 marines has their own personality and acts as an extra life; however, they only join your four-person squad if it is lacking a member. There are also weapon upgrades, ammo, and health packs hidden in ducts and other areas. In addition, much of the Sulaco is locked off at the beginning of the game. In order to unlock these areas, you must first find one of the many items that allow you to bypass the obstacle. Furthermore, the USS Sulaco is not the only area to explore, but the other areas have little to distinguish them from others.
As for the game’s replay value, there is none. There is no "new game plus" option and there really is not any reason to go back after you beat the game the first time. This is made worse by the fact that the game only has one save slot, so if you did want to go back, you would have to delete your prior progress. There is one extra mini-game, but I would be surprised to find anyone that played it more than a couple of times.
Aliens: Infestation is good diversion for Alien and Metroid fans, but in the end, it feels like a missed opportunity. There is certainly some fun to be had exploring the USS Sulaco and fighting the xenomorphs, but its repetitive nature and lack of variety distracts from what could have been a great game.