Aliens in the Attic (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
Ever since the mighty Toy Story it appears that every film studio on the planet has released their very own full length CGI movie. History shows that audiences and critics have not always embraced these and the genre is beginning to get a bad name for pushing out poorly conceived stories with one-dimensional characters. I haven't seen Aliens in the Attic and it may be just great, but the trailers do seem to signify yet another 'straight to DVD' experience. As with all movies aimed towards a younger audience there's a game and while we'd normally expect a poor gaming experience, this was developed by Engine Software who did the incredible Dragon Hunters only last year. So, our expectations are high, but what's the game actually like?
Aliens in the Attic involves you controlling not one but three members of the Pearson Family who have been troubled for some time by odd noises coming from their attic. As the name implies, this turns out to be caused by a group of aliens and it's up to you to rid them (and their huge house) of this menace. It plays out like a mix between a classic action platformer, albeit a very simple one, and The Lost Vikings with each member of the family possessing very different skills. You'll need all of them too, to get though the game, rescuing 'the adults' and battling it out with some inventive 'end of level' bosses.
Swapping between the characters is done using the shoulder buttons and you'll not only notice that the character's portrait changes but also the highlighted weapons on the touch-screen. As a result of this, you'll quickly discover that Tom is the primary character and the brains of the family. You'll use this character for the majority of the combat as he can not only develop his own weapons, but also adapt the alien technology that is unlocked during the game. Jake is the strongest of the three so you'll need to call upon his unique skill set when moving large objects out of the way or onto pressure pads (to open doors). Finally there's Hannah and while she's the smallest of the trio this does enable her to climb though small gaps and she's also capable of a double jump, allowing you to reach higher platforms.
This is standard platforming stuff so all the controls are where you'd expect to find them. The only really awkward part of the control is the 'free-aiming', which fortunately is taken care of using the touch-screen interface.
Visually, Aliens in the Attic is actually quite appealing with the attics, basements and exterior locations large and well designed. There are also some rather nice special effects and the end of level bosses are threatening in their size and variety. The only real drawback is the annotation of the main characters, which is limited at best and occasionally feels a little wooden.
The soundtrack isn't bad and the 'electro action' music seems to fit the on-screen action perfectly, it's just a shame there isn't enough variety. The sound effects are simply 'off the shelf' and while they do their job, they're hardly spectacular.
Other than selecting various weapons and options, the main use for the touch-screen is to direct your weapons' fire, which is simply a case of touching the screen in the direction of your intended target. The other use is a rather strange mini-game that involves a spinning lock where you must drop different colored balls into the correct slots when instructed. It's simple stuff and not very inspired but it's been included anyway.
If you happen to be one of the many younger gamers who enjoyed Aliens in the Attic on the big screen, then there's more than enough challenge here to keep you occupied. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the older gamer who's not only likely to have seen this before, but also done much better. The empty levels, lack of challenge and replay value means that this will be a one time only experience. It's well put together but there just doesn't seem to be enough going on and simply walking though an action game defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.
Pro: Classic Old School 2D Action, Challenging Bosses.
Con: Nothing Too Original, No Replay Value
Final score: 6.1