It takes a lot to make a retro game that lives up to its roots. The developers of Angus Hates Aliens attempted to accomplish this by creating a 16-bit shooter that plays like a beat 'em up. Were their efforts successful? Put on your trucker hat and let's find out.
The story begins with Angus waking up in an alien ship. He soon escapes with the help of a female alien who guides him over a radio. When he emerges, a military officer contacts him with further instructions. Along his journey to rid the world of aliens, he'll come across many ridiculous enemies such as zombies and a couple of recurring alien bosses who fly UFOs and control the minds of humans. Graphically, the entire game looks like it could be played on a Super Nintendo. Everything is rendered authentically and this makes playing it all the more fun. Although the audio doesn't match the 16-bit visuals, it's very well done. The music is catchy with a combination of gritty guitars and trippy beats while sound effects such as bombs exploding, aliens squishing, and Angus grunting are spot-on.
Instead of making yet another twin stick shooter, the developers opted to create something pretty unique here. You control Angus by moving him around with the stick and shooting left and right with the shoulder buttons. Just because he can only shoot in two directions, that doesn't mean that he can't take care of business. In fact, the tight controls and intuitive stage layouts work seamlessly together to remain both challenging and fair. Where the gameplay shines is in its strategic elements. Being able to equip Angus appropriately for upcoming encounters is crucial for success. Of course, you'll also have to hold on to enough ammo, money, and heal items to survive. When you combine these strategic elements with the inventory management system, you're left with an ultimately satisfying dynamic. However, gameplay is incredibly slow. Angus walks as if his feet are stuck in mud and even enemies that are supposed to be fast move as quickly as you would expect Angus to. At the beginning of the game when he's being chased by aliens and told to run, I thought it was a joke. That being said, you eventually get used to it over the course of the campaign.
Angus Hates Aliens is paced almost perfectly. The only problem I had is that it takes forever to start being interesting. Once it does then you'll find yourself constantly being introduced to new weapons, enemy types, and situations. Acquiring an arsenal of firepower while experimenting to see which works best in each circumstance is quite a rewarding endeavor. The enemies gradually become more unpredictable and powerful and dealing with them in various combinations can almost make you feel like as much of a badass as Angus himself. You have the ability to develop by purchasing weapon upgrades and finding permanent health increases. A lot of the game's goodies are discovered in optional rooms and by murdering grannies. Don't worry; the grannies are just aliens in disguise... I hope.
The entirety of the campaign will take you many hours to complete. By the time I was done with it I thought to myself, "That sure was long, I thought this was supposed to be a mini!" Actually, my first thought was, "Wow, that last boss was disappointing." I don't want to give anything away, but I was looking forward to an epic boss battle during the final parts of the game and what I got was a huge let-down. However, what I was delighted to see is that the game started from the beginning again with all of my equipment intact. New game plus is always an awesome discovery. Not only do you get to play it again, but the second time around is sped up twice as fast as the first. That's right; my previously mentioned complaint is fixed in the second playthrough. I definitely didn't see that coming.
Angus Hates Aliens may officially be a mini, but it's actually a massive game with tons of satisfying gameplay and content. The only real downside is that you need a lot of patience as well as low expectations for the final confrontation. If you have the ability to overcome those aspects, then prepare yourself for hours of alien (and zombie) slaughtering fun.
- + Tight controls with gameplay that rewards you for strategically planning ahead
- + Superb 16-bit visuals and awesome audio
- + Lengthy and well-paced campaign
- - Everything moves slower than molasses during the first playthrough
- - It takes a long time to get interesting
- - The last boss is the epitome of anticlimactic