Indie Quickie: Alien Blitz

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What is it and who made it? A few years ago, Microbasic put out a game called Snorms. Alien Blitz is a 3D remake of that game. So if you played or know of the original, think of this as “Snorms Reloaded.” For anyone just hearing the names Snorms or Alien Blitz for the first time, the game’s essentially Doom turned into an isometric shooter.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? I played the PC version, which is available now via Steam for $6.99. If you already bought the original Snorms on Desura, Indie Game Stand, or as part of a bundle deal, you’re eligible to get a free Steam key for this remade version–just follow the dev’s instructions from the Steam Community Hub. Mobile versions are also available for Android and iOS devices.

How much did we play? Spent three hours blitzing aliens from an isometric perspective. In that time, I finished the first 10 stages of episode one (that’s roughly a quarter of the total campaign spanning three episodes), leveled up to rank 11, died six times, and blitzed 556 aliens.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? Gamepads are supported, but only partially as certain menu headings aren’t accessible without the mouse cursor. Also don’t expect the game to play like a true twin-stick shooter, because when using a controller only the left analog stick does anything–you shoot in whichever direction you’re moving. Mouse and keyboard was my preferred control method. My play time thus far hasn’t been marred by any bugs or design faults; however, I do have to say that I found the generic-sounding house/jazz rock music to clash with and distract from the mood of the game. But that may just be a personal taste thing. On the plus side, the game offers a wealth of adjustable graphics and UI settings, as well as stat tracking. Lots of tweakable settings is always a good thing.

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Why should you play it?

    To say that this game harks back to Doom would be an understatement. Alien Blitz has all the trappings of id Software’s classic FPS and other corridor-style shooters of that era. Only here the camera presents the action from a bird’s-eye view, which definitely brings a unique flavor to the familiar-feeling action. The maps are like sprawling mazes connected by warp portals and doors that require switches and color-coded keycards to open, plus a fair amount of backtracking to find the doors unlocked by said switches/keycards. The life system utilizes the classic combo of a non-regenerating health bar refilled via health packs, and bolstered by armor pick-ups. Hitting certain switches and waypoints triggers sudden enemy spawns–nearby or back in previously cleared rooms–or springs those dreaded surprise ambushes from enemies laying in wait behind false walls. Exploding barrels can be shot to inflict serious proximity damage (including to yourself if you’re too close when the boom goes off). Just the fact that the game’s main starting weapon is a shotgun is a nod to the legendary Doom boomstick–it’s not as crunchy and satisfying, but it’s still fun to blast cubic aliens with. There’s even an unlockable mod setting that allows the view to be switched to a first-person perspective, and from that angle the similarities become even more apparent (though you don’t see down a gun barrel like a true FPS though).

    The obvious Doom reverence brings a certain degree of nostalgia to the experience, but the game still stands out on its own with more of an arcade bullet hell shooter slant versus a tense horror mood (the alien grunts and groans do sound an awful lot like Doom demons though). The pacing isn’t super fast-paced by any means, but there is no shortage of strafing, room circling, and bunny hopping that brings out that old fashioned twitch shooter feel. With deft movements, enemies can actually be drawn into friendly fire, a key tactic for evening the odds against outnumbering alien invaders in a crowded area. Ammo pick-ups can get fairly limited if you get too trigger happy, but as long as you keep a decent savings of in-game currency additional ammo and short duration power-ups, like decoys, invisibility, invincibility, and reflective shields, are available at any time from the pause menu.

    For a splash of light RPG progression, experience and money are earned after each stage, allowing you to update the protagonist soldier’s armory. Leveling up provides points to increase the health, armor, and damage attributes of your mecha suit, while unlocked weapons can be individually upgraded with enough cash, each progressive upgrade raising the cost for the next. The upgrade system does lack clarity though. For example, when upgrading a weapon there isn’t a clear indication of what specific stats will be improved at the next level. Sometimes I’d spend a lot of cash on multiple upgrades but have a difficult time noticing a discernable performance boost. Hopefully that’s something that can be addressed in a future update.

Parting Thoughts: Graphics snobs will probably crap all over the game’s voxelized visuals and rudimentary animation, but for retro enthusiasts there is a certain charm to the low-poly aesthetic that pairs nicely with the similarly old school brand of gameplay. Alien Blitz sure doesn’t skimp on content or replay either. It’s packing around 40 stages, multiple difficulty settings (including an unlockable Nightmare New Game+ mode), individual stage timers for doing speedruns (plus online leaderboards), and maps that contain secret rooms, collectibles, and Easter Egg references galore. I’ve already been drawn to replay a few stages just to find things I missed the first time and tick off all the mission result checkboxes for 100% completion. OCD completionists have a lot of map nooks and crannies to explore, that’s for sure. A level editor with Steam Workshop integration comes included as well, though at this point I have yet to see any user-created content. A community of level editors contributing to the Workshop would be nice, but the base game certainly is worthwhile on its own merits.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Alien Blitz was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!