Alien Scumbags Review
Monster Finger Games’ Alien Scumbags is an 8-bit arcade-style shooter with some impressive horror elements. The game is a humorous homage to the horror genre, 90’s 8-bit platformers – and games in general – with plenty of Easter eggs and amusing moments to keep you entertained. Originally available on Game Jolt, the game will release on Steam on 17th June.
The game doesn’t really have a story per se. You’re a Doom Guy/Master Chief hybrid, called Master Chef, selected for the perilous task of establishing contact with the incommunicado ship, Nostrami, and finding why it has gone radio silent.
Amusingly, you’ve been selected for the job because the best, i.e. Doom Guy or Duke Nukem, are unavailable; so they’ve had to settle for the C-Team. That’s basically it. As you arrive on the ship, you see that it’s filled with all manner of horrific creations.
The game does have some environmental storytelling. There are several experimental rooms, which suggest not all was well on the ill-fated ship. Likewise, there around 12 audio logs to unlock. Some of these are voiced, others are text. These fill in some details regarding the ship’s descent into madness. It’s quite satisfying piecing it together.
The level structure and gameplay of Alien Scumbags is fairly standard for a platformer. As you enter the Nostrami, you need to go deeper into the ship. You do this by reaching the end of each level. You encounter enemies, which you’re encouraged to dispatch for a higher score.
At first, I felt the gameplay was a little clunky. However, after a couple playthroughs, I slipped into a rhythm. I quickly learned which enemies were weak to which guns; and that some enemies can be one-shot from behind. To boost your high score, there are also hidden golden eggs and other items. With several items to be found, you’re always on the precipice of discovering a new item or Easter egg.
At the time of writing, there was no way to remap controls in-game. This is something I would like to see implemented as an accessibility feature. However, it can be done natively in Windows if you’re using a controller. You can do this with the Xbox Controller or DS4 Windows apps.
There are three difficulty levels. In-keeping with the tone of the game, they’re all amusingly named. “Pussy” is pretty forgiving, whereas “Taste My Boomstick” represents more of a balance between reward and difficulty. “You’re Dead, Fuckface” is the most difficult setting, and feels a little imbalanced, but that’s the appeal of a punishing level. From easy to hard, you’re looking at anything between 15-60 minutes per playthrough.
As you increase the difficulty levels, enemies become tougher. This increases the importance of the stealth elements inherent to the horror genre. There are lockers dotted around each level, and they protect you from the horde of enemies as you employ a more strategic method of killing them. Likewise, you need to start using the ‘correct’ gun for each enemy as the difficulty increases. You could probably complete the game with just the pistol, but that was too much of a challenge for me on the highest difficulty.
One thing I think that adds to the difficulty, and perhaps add a touch of frustration, is that ammo doesn’t stack. It means that reloads to secondary weapons are contingent on you locating ammo. These are few and far between. In lower difficulties, this doesn’t matter. In higher difficulties, it creates a sense of a struggle for survival. I find these mechanics frustrating, but it’s unquestionably well-balanced for each difficulty level. However, it renders the objective of killing everything a bit beyond my skill level.
The reason Alien Scumbags encourages you to kill everything, is that you are given points for every kill. These points represent your high score, but are transferrable for additional lives should you die. Run out of points, run out of lives.
On higher difficulties, you will die. So get killin’.
The 8-bit style is well implemented, and looks great. Asset design is creative and varied, and all look great under the impressive use of lighting. The concentric light emanating from your avatar casts an atmospheric green light which tapers off naturally. Additionally, higher difficulties seem to be increasingly dark.
Under this lighting, the blood writing on the wall looks a lot nicer than I would have thought, given the style. Likewise, there are some floor lighting modules which cast a nice blue light adding to the ambience.
The animations are also pleasing. Zombified scientists pace vacantly, but activate upon conflict. There are Master Chief-like enemies whom are largely unresponsive, but have a nice Predator-like face opening when you get too close. The facehuggers are likewise well animated, especially as the tail wraps round Master Chef’s face.
The only aesthetic choice that I feel could be improved is the menu colouration. I felt that the green-scale on the collections tab would maybe be more readable in blue. It made reading the codex more difficult than it could have been, especially on larger screens.
Menu input is also inconsistent, with the collections tab only responding to up/down, but its parent menu accepting left/right. It’s a small issue, but nonetheless present.
Each playthrough is quite short, and so Alien Scumbags focuses predominantly on replayability. In that regard, it has a lot to offer. In each level, there are egg dispensers that provide an opportunity to unlock an additional character.
These all pay homage to different classic characters – from The Flash to Mortal Combat’s Scorpion, as well as The Bunny… They all have different perks, with Flash moving significantly faster than Master Chef, while The Bunny has a massive leap. These abilities definitely change your approach to the game, and because of the shorter playthrough times, it adds a lot to the replayability.
The soundtrack is really cool and atmospheric. Some tracks are chilled and eerie, while others are more intense. Along with the lighting effects, the soundtrack adds to the overall feel of the game. It really creates a nice horror atmosphere that feels reminiscent of Alien. However, the sound effects (SFX) are a little underwhelming.
Enemy noises can be quite repetitive and began to grate after a few hours. They don’t sound particularly distinct either. Likewise, weapon SFX are quiet; meek even.
This is in-keeping with the genre and type of 90’s game to which Alien Scumbags pays homage. However, this commitment to authenticity did feel like it lessened the experience somewhat. For example, shooting the shotgun doesn’t feel powerful as a result of the accompanying mild bang. Coupled with the often subtle visual feedback, it does feel a bit devoid of impact.
Performance & Bugs
At 50mb, Alien Scumbags is a very small game. With that, it probably won’t surprise you to read that it ran perfectly at 1440p on my PC (6800K/1070/16GB/M.2 NVME). More to the point, it scaled well and looked great on my 1080p monitor as well.
There are some bugs to be found in the game, but none that are game-breaking. I only found a couple of visual disturbances. For example, on level 4, I was able to replicate a bug on a ladder that made Master Chef judder. One particular bug was very noticeable. The entire screen juddered as I moved up stairs.
However, I want to allay concerns about bugs with an anecdote that is representative of the developer’s commitment to quality.
Watching a stream of Alien Scumbags, there was a glitch whereby accessing the menu would crash the game. It so happened that lead developer, James, was watching the stream. He fixed this, and uploaded a patch, within an hour. If you buy Alien Scumbags, I have absolute confidence that Monster Finger Games will resolve any bugs that are found.
Price & DLC
The game is well-priced, and I think it’s good value for money. Currently priced at £5.99 with 10 levels, Monster Finger Games intend to add 10 more levels and another boss fight. At this point, the game will increase to £7.99.
If you buy the game at launch, you will NOT have to pay for the additional content. It will be a free update. The developers do not believe in asking players to pay for post-launch content.
I played the game for around 5-6 hrs. In that time, I unlocked several characters and completed the game on all difficulties. I am aware that the game will not be to everyone’s tastes – normally, it’s not the type of game that I would play. However, I had a lot of fun playing it – especially when I started to click with the gameplay.
Monster Finger Games haven’t reinvented the wheel with Alien Scumbags, but that’s not something I expected going in.
The game achieves what it sets out to do. The combat is enjoyable, and evolves as difficulty increases. The character unlocks are amusing and unique, each playing differently. The Easter eggs are ever present and always fun. The level design is sufficiently varied so as to ensure you never feel like it’s groundhog day. It’s a well put together game, and I look forward to seeing Alien Scumbag’s content update.
At either £5.99 or £7.99 I feel comfortable recommending Alien Scumbags, especially for those who enjoy survival horror and retro-style games.
Verdict – Recommend
Make sure you stick with Countr Cultur for the latest gaming news, reviews, and features from around the world. To receive updates on all CC posts, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Also, come and chat with us on Discord!