Alien Scumbags by Monster Finger Games spoofs various franchises such as Duke Nukem and Aliens, with callouts to everything from Predator to Super Mario. There is also just a little hint of J-Horror tossed in for good measure. But, beyond the mishmash of horror and game references, Alien Scumbags does an excellent job on its own merit of building an atmosphere of dark intrigue using well-crafted 8-bit graphics and creepy sound effects. Unfortunately, glitches, particularly in the game’s later stages, and a few design flaws lead to serious frustration that distracts from what is otherwise an entertaining game.
You play as Master Chef (yes, you read that correctly) as you explore the Nostrema, a space shuttle that mysteriously lost communication. It is up to you to wander the darkened and bloodied hallways in an attempt to discover what happened aboard the ill-fated spacecraft. You will have to fight your way through a plethora of mutants, aliens, and even supernatural beings to make it to the end.
As of this writing, there are currently four areas, each slowly increasing in difficulty. Combat is simple: hide or shoot. There are lockers you can jump inside to keep your face from being chomped on by an alien behemoth. But, if you want to earn points, you will have to learn how to fight smart. Points can be used to continue after death, so killing every baddie you run is encouraged. Having unlimited ammo certainly helps.
Along the way, you will collect a variety of weapons which you can switch between. New weapons come with limited ammo, but your standard weapon has an unlimited amount of bullets. You can use your gun for more than just killing aliens. It is also a tool for opening secret passages or moving objects in order to make your way onto an unreachable ledge. It is satisfying to find more powerful weapons and watch the heads of multiple zombified scientists explode at once. Kill shots result in a spectacular explosion of pixelated blood and gore. Combat is simple, but the finely tuned difficulty keeps it fresh and fun.
However, the well-crafted graphics and the enjoyable combat aren’t enough to hide a bevy of flaws. Though you eventually get the option to continue after death, this isn’t available from the beginning even if you have collected enough points. This means if you die early enough, you will have to begin over. There is also no way to quite back to the home screen. If you cannot continue, you are forced to quit to the desktop. I also twice was given the option to continue, but no matter what I tried, I could not get the game to select the “yes” option even though I had collected more than twice the number of required points.
In the fourth area, I encountered several major glitches. My ammo counter vanished, and at one point no bullets fired from my gun despite having unlimited basic ammo. This caused me to die after finding myself face=to-teeth with an angry alien; I had no way of fending off. I also had a door refuse to open. When I tried to activate it, even though it was a type of door that is supposed to open automatically, I floated through the ceiling and back to the beginning of the area. I went back, tried it again, and began floating. I was able to navigate Master Chef through the still-closed gate while in mid-air where I finally fell to the ground and was able to progress as usual. I also experienced several small glitches as well such as the firing sound effect failing at random times, and part of my hood showing through the locker door when I am closed inside.
Controls are an issue as well. The controller compatibility works fine. But, if you choose to use the keyboard, you will find play is a bit awkward. You use “B” to shoot and the spacebar to jump, meaning you have to place your thumb and forefinger rather close together if you want to be able to jump and fire at the same time. Not a particularly natural placement. If you use WASD instead of the arrow keys for movement, you also run the risk of accidentally hitting “Q” and quitting out to the desktop, which the game will do upon command without warning or asking you if you intended to quit.
Alien Scumbags is a solid homage to old-school shooters and a delight for fans of 8-bit horror. There are a good variety of weapons and enemies, and you can even collect new characters. Combat is fun when it works, and the steady learning curve keeps it feeling fresh. Currently, however, the game only has four areas and no ending. But, new content is coming soon. So, it might be best to wait until the newest update before spending your $5. Currently, the various glitches and poorly designed keyboard functionality prevent the experience from reaching its potential.
Alien Scumbags is a wait and see at this point, and we will update this review once the latest update has been released. For now, however, it is a solid start, but too buggy to recommend as a purchase.