Alien Breed has finally come to iOS, and its arrival is most welcome, especially from anyone who ever played an Amiga in the early 90’s. Team 17 have finally started to convert some of their older franchises to iPhone and iPad, with Alien Breed hopefully the first of many.
The good news is that this is a brilliant conversion that has obviously had a lot of thought and care put into it, with some excellent extras and an impressive amount of content. The bad news is that there is something big missing, which we will go into later in the review.
Alien Breed is a top down shooter, heavily inspired by the Aliens movie, with an emphasis on ammo and key management mixed in with plenty of Alien killing action. The levels are sprawling mazes set on a deserted spaceship, and there are many different level objectives, the best of which are the stages where you have to find and blow up reactors, then make it to the exit before the ship blows, with red lights and alarm bells increasing the stress levels. The changes of pace really make the game what it is, as you can be creeping along, minding your ammo, then a minutes later blasting dozens of enemies as you make a dash for it.
Team 17 didn’t just bang out a quick port, but have clearly thought long and hard about what to include here. This package not only includes the original Alien Breed, but also the excellent Alien Breed: Special Edition, which is actually an entirely different game that was an improvement on the original upon its original release, and is still the stronger part of this package. Not only that, but they have even created a brand new episode in the story, Convergence.
Convergence is a four level game that tracks the journey of another soldier in the Alien Breed story, and is a most welcome edition. There are also more episodes to come.
So, you are essentially getting the original, six level Alien Breed, the superior 12 level Alien Breed: Special Edition and the four level Convergence, which will together give you many hours of gameplay, and they all feature their own stories with simple cut-scenes. You can collect credits strewn around the levels to buy guns that are unlocked across the game modes, such as missile launchers and lasers, and plasma arcs that bounce off the walls. There are also a lot of locked doors in the levels, with keys needed to unlock them, although they can also be unlocked by using up some of your precious ammo destroying them. A hint here is to use unlocked weapons on your enemies and switch to the standard rifle to destroy doors. You can also purchase credits via IAP’s, although I wouldn’t imagine anyone would need to unless you were really struggling.
The game has received a complete graphical makeover, and the result is a modern looking game that still retains the feel of the original, 16 bit graphics, and the controls have also been transformed, with a standard twin stick setup used, and this does work well. You do also have the option of switching to the original graphics and control system, although I suspect this will be nothing more than a curiosity for many, as although the graphics still look good, the old control system really, really doesn’t work on a touchscreen. I do find it strange that you can’t mix and match the control system, and have the old graphics with the new controls. Hopefully this will come in a future update, as it is an odd oversight.
Now, we come to the missing piece, the most important aspect of Alien Breed that didn’t make it into this iOS release- multiplayer. Yes, two player cooperative play was the very best thing about Alien Breed, and its omission is baffling. I was expecting at least a Bluetooth mode, even online, but there is nothing here at all. The App Store is crying out for an online co-op story based game like this, so I think Team 17 have missed a trick here, especially with the Game Center framework sitting there waiting to be used. Hell, I would think that a two player mode on one iPad would work just fine, as many games have done this perfectly, with one set of controls on the top and one on the bottom.
There is a lot to love here, aside from the lack of multiplayer. You get two classic games, updated for the modern player, plus a brand new adventure. The new music and sound effects are great, especially the upgraded ammo sound, the new graphics are perfect and the addition of Game Center integration is welcome, as is Facebook score sharing, Retina and iCloud support. This is a brilliant package, with one of the Amiga’s best series off to a good start on iPad, now lets hope that the even better Alien Breed 2 and the outstanding Alien Breed : Tower Assault are on their way, although not before Team 17 get round to adding some co-op love to this game first.