Team 17 were renowned for their highly polished Amiga games and one of the most fondly remembered titles is Alien Breed. It’s still highly playable today and, for those who don’t have an Amiga handy or aren’t into emulation, it’s been re-released it for iOS devices.
Alien Breed is best described as a cross between the Alien series of films and Gauntlet. Playing as a space marine stranded on a deserted spaceship which has been overrun by hostile aliens, you must make your way through the maze of corridors, avoiding or killing the alien hordes and finding your way to the exit for each level. As if your mission wasn’t already tough enough, your ammunition is limited (extra supplies can be found) and almost every door you find needs a key to unlock it
Despite being over 20 years old now, Alien Breed’s graphics look as good as ever. The action is viewed from a top down perspective and whilst your marine and the aliens initially look quite chunky, you soon get used to this. The top-down view feels very natural and gives you a decent view of the surrounding area so you can spot potential enemies. However, the limited viewpoint also adds to the claustrophobic sense of fear, as you are never quite sure what lies beyond the limits of your vision.
Sound was always one of the strongest elements of Alien Breed and made the game genuinely scary. A simple, but menacing soundtrack accompanies sparse (but atmospheric) sound effects. From the screams and screeches of the aliens, to the clanging noise the doors make or the disembodied voice warning you are low on energy, the sound effects all combine to ramp up the tension. This is one of those games you play with palms sweaty from tension and fear!
As with many iOS games, it’s let down a bit by the controls. Replacing the original physical joystick with a virtual one is not totally successful. The controls take a bit of getting used to and are not always as responsive as you might like. This is compounded by the fact that you can only fire in the direction that you are facing, so close control over your character is essential. It’s all too easy to get your direction just slightly wrong, so that instead of firing at an alien and killing it, you end up running into it and losing precious energy. On the plus side, the game is compatible with the iCade, which gives you back a physical controller and improves things massively.
There’s maybe some question marks over the nature of the gameplay. Each level is essentially the same as before, just with a different maze layout, more aliens and tougher. On the one hand, this is a good thing, since anyone can just pick up the game and start playing, without the need to learn complicated rules or controls. On the other hand, if you don’t like what you see on Level 1, then it’s not going to get any better.
With only around 20 levels, longevity might also be an issue for some. Whilst the difficulty level on Alien Breed is quite high (my gaming skills are so rubbish I’ve never come close to completing it), decent players will probably be able to beat it fairly quickly and once you’ve completed all the missions there’s no real reason to go back to it. That said, it’s still a great game and you’ll enjoy it while it lasts and for gamers of a certain age, it will also provide a real blast of nostalgia.
Team 17 should also be given credit for not simply adapting the original rom for the iOS. Instead, they have given it a bit of a facelift, updating the graphics to give them an HD sheen whilst preserving the overall look and feel of the original. If you’re real old school, then you can switch back to the original Amiga graphics and sound and enjoy that 90s experience in full.
A game that would have cost around £20 when it first came out can now be yours for just 99p, which has to be an absolute bargain. Alien Breed is one of the Amiga’s most atmospheric games and the fear factor is right up there with the Resident Evil games. If you’ve played Alien Breed before, you know that this is worth investing in; if you’ve not, then you’re in for a treat.