Alien Chaos 3D 3DS
Back in 2010, there was a game released onto the XBLA market called ‘Mama & Son: Clean House’, a game about destroying robot aliens and cleaning up the mess made. With the first player taking the role of the Rambo-esque character Really Shooter (no…really, his name is Really), Mama would either be played by a second player, the AI, or the first player if on hardcore mode. Mama needed to sweep up the bullet shells and bits of destroyed robots, whilst Really protected her and killed everything that posed a threat. The game was extremely short and was actually more of a proof-of-concept test, which is where Alien Chaos 3D comes in. This time around, Mama is abducted by the returning alien robots – apparently a common inconvenience. Now alone, Really must take up both sides of their ‘Mama & Son Demolition and Cleaning Services’ by destroying everything that stands between himself and Mama, whilst simultaneously being respectful to his environment.
Even though the title says ‘3D,’ it is just redundantly referring to the fact that it uses the 3DS’ top screen to it’s fullest; the game is actually a 2.5D platforming shooter. Each level is set in a different closed-off arena and requires the player simply survive the onslaught of enemies to progress. The arenas are pretty small and packed, so there is not much room for anything fancy, and they usually just consist of a few enemy spawn portals, platforms and the odd spike pit. Really can only jump and shoot, so the player must cleverly use the environment and Really’s cleanliness OCD to reign victorious. Similar to Contra controls, the player can shoot in eight directions even whilst in the air. Unfortunately, due to the fast jump animation (compared to the much slower jump-spin animation in Contra), there is little manoeuvrability, so most enemies will simply be shot by lining several of them up in a straight line and mowing them down in quick succession – although, backing into a corner is no option, and using the game’s cleaning mechanics forces players out into the map.
The cleaning is where Alien Chaos stands out, as it adds a layer of depth to gameplay, requiring the player take risks and think about their next move before just blasting away enemies. There are two main ways to clean up: wiping explosion dust from the walls and sweeping garbage into recycling slots, which both have benefits besides just upping the player’s score. Every enemy will cause a small explosion on death, marking the wall behind them with a black stain and leaving their robot bodies in little bits all over the floor. Standing in front of the dirty walls and not pressing anything will have Really pull out a cloth and quickly clean the surface, rewarding you with a bit of super energy and a good few points. The more enemies killed in the same place, the more points and super energy gained from cleaning. The bits of rubbish that end up on the floor, including all the shells from Really’s guns, can be pushed into recycle holes by simply walking into them. Each recycle hole has a bar that fills up rewarding you with either an ammo or a weapon crate once full.
At the start of each level, Really comes packing heat with his machine gun, complete with 100 shots of ammo…but this quickly dwindles. Once used up, you are left to use the much slower peashooter until you can find some ammo or a new gun, making the garbage recycling a necessity. Each gun, as you would expect, comes with its own unique amount of limited ammo, damage, speed and shot type, ranging from a standard machine gun, a rocket blaster and even a mini-gun that literally propels Really in the opposite direction. Each weapon is useful in its own way, but no weapon is ever so powerful that you can destroy everything in sight without worrying about recycling garbage or filling up your super meter. As mentioned, the super meter fills by cleaning walls and, once full, can be used to send out a wave that kills everything around you. It’s always good to keep it saved for when you get backed into a corner, but jumping into a mound of enemies just to activate the attack is pretty satisfying, especially when you are rewarded with a nice score multiplier for multiple kills.
Although they are robot aliens, the game’s enemies are actually just mech versions of normal earth animals. The basic enemies are kangaroos that just hop around left and right in an attempt to follow you, whilst the mandatory flying enemies are simply birds that, although are extremely weak, can fly through walls and attack you directly. There are tortoises that quickly find their way to the ground and shoot rockets upwards through the platforms, forcing you take them out fast or risk getting hit; armadillo enemies that curl up and shoot in your direction; and hippos that are slow but take a real beating, with some of them carrying shields. Five enemy types really isn’t that much, but the lack in variation is made up for in the sheer amount of enemies you are often made to face. With enemies on the ground and in the air, some shooting projectiles and some that are fast, there is always something to keep an eye out for. Each enemy also comes in three increasingly strong forms: normal metallic silver, red, and finally, black. Fighting the oncoming hordes whilst also trying to fill up your super meter and effectively use the recycler can get quite difficult. It also means that there is never a moment when you are doing nothing.
The boss fights are where it gets interesting, as their different attack patterns, mixed with the infinite onslaught of regular enemies, has you narrowly escaping death and trying to constantly re-stock the ammo in your favourite weapon. There are 25 stages split into five episodes, ranging from a construction site to the alien spacecraft and more, with the last stage in an episode always constituting a boss fight. Most bosses are giant versions of regular enemies, each with their own king sized health bar and some new attacks, such as the Netherbird’s spread-shot projectiles. After the regular stages that are so similar, it’s nice to be thrown a curveball so often and take on something challenging. Although they still only take away one of your eight pieces of health per hit, things can get quite demanding when concentrating on cleaning and attacking simultaneously. Still, their single forms and easily-read attack patterns don’t make them interesting for long, and it is still the cleaning mechanics that single-handedly hold the game up.
It’s easy to see that Alien Chaos is meant to be an arcade-style game, as it focuses on high-scores and is fairly short, with each of the 25 levels taking just several minutes to complete. At the end of each stage, your score will be tallied based on the enemies you destroyed, the walls you cleaned and your leftover health, finally rewarding you with a bronze, silver or gold medal. Unfortunately, there’s no motivation to go back and achieve a gold medal on more stages, as there’s no prize at the end, which I definitely feel is missing. Even unlocking more levels for challenge mode would have been appreciated. The challenge mode itself lacks innovation, and the ten challenges are repeats of three simple tasks: survive for as long as possible, kill everything or destroy the set targets as fast as possible. Even the game’s StreetPass feature is based around trading challenge mode scores. After completing the game, the absence of a multiplayer mode after rescuing Mama left me feeling a bit let down, as I certainly expected one after looking at the original game.
Overall, the game is a fun way to pass a bit of time with some interesting mechanics, good music and great depth using the 3D screen – although, besides the 3D visuals, there’s really no need for this game to be a 3DS exclusive, as the bottom screen is only used to show weapon stats, which could easily be displayed on the top screen like a mobile game. With a story that was clearly built around the gameplay and little variation throughout the stages, Alien Chaos 3D is a game to play when you don’t have enough time to jump into a deeper title. With the addition of a fun multiplayer mode and some clever challenges to keep a player coming back, this could have been something special, though sadly it ends up a simple game with solid mechanics but little replay value.