SEGA
"Alien Syndrome" is marred by bland Gamecube-era graphics and temperamental controls. But if you like RPGs, you might think the character creation is cool.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/10/2007 10:07:15 PM ET 2007-08-11T02:07:15

In space, no one can hear you scream. And hopefully, no one can hear you shriek with frustration and boredom as you play Sega's futuristic RPG/shooter "Alien Syndrome" on Wii and PSP.

"Alien Syndrome" (Rated T: $49.99), based on the 1987 arcade game of the same name, is billed as an evolutionary RPG, but suffers from a near-fatal case of ambition. “Alien Syndrome” wants to have it both ways. It yearns to be a throwback to the mindless run-and-gun shooters from 20 years ago while trying to pass itself off as a next-gen title. If the game dedicated itself to one of these ideas, it might have better results. But instead, the title is little more than a boring bug hunt, thanks to chunky graphics and mixed controls.

"Alien Syndrome" reveals its shoddiness early on with a subpar opening sequence that's little more than an animated slideshow of bland visuals that harken back to Nintendo 64/Playstation 1 days. Honestly, a next-gen game deserves a better presentation.

In the game, you play Aileen Harding, an intergalactic troubleshooter sent to investigate why a massive space station has gone silent. Could it have anything to do with the undulating green slime found inside the cavernous ship? Nah.

But faster than you can say “Sigourney Weaver,” aliens of all shapes and sizes lurch out of the woodwork to eat you. Using your rifle and a big staff, you reduce swarms of aliens to goo while unraveling the mystery. Your only company as you progress is a helpful floating robot that acts as your bodyguard and traveling treasure chest. 

Yet despite the outer space setting, we have seen this all before. If you've played any "Baldur's Gate" games, you'll know exactly what’s in store: travel through a linear maze, frag baddies, rack up experience points, grab loot and new gear, level up and get better swag, kill a zillion more monsters, boss fights. Repeat until any interest in the game comes to complete stop.

The unoriginal RPG motif is matched by bland Gamecube-era graphics and temperamental controls. While the point-and-shoot activity of the Wiimote couldn't be simpler, "Alien Syndrome" slips up when it comes to camera control, which is done by twisting the nunchuk attachment.  The camera gets picky about when it wants to turn, leaving you sometimes mired in one fixed position while blasting aliens.

One of the game’s worst problems comes from something you can’t do anything about:The constant top-down perspective makes the combat like youre watching the action through a microscope.

And yet, "Alien Syndrome" does get a couple things right. RPG fans might enjoy the good amount of character customization, which gives players numerous ways to approach the game. You can modify your character to be an in-your-face fighter or a sharpshooter who can pick off monsters from a distance with a rifle. You can specialize in using flamethrowers and being immune to radiation. You can even be a master of explosives (although setting off bombs on a pressurized spaceship really doesn’t sound wise).

Also, the robot toolbox/bodyguard gives players the ability to craft ammo, armor , and more on the fly by converting found items into "resource points."  Tinkering around with the points isn't as tedious as it sounds, and crafting new weapons and fresh ammo gives players an easy way to keep track of what they use while cannibalizing what they don't need.

There's no online mode, although there is four-player co-op for Wii (as well as the PSP). Good luck though on finding three other people to play with you for long periods of time. After an hour of play, you’ll want to put “Alien Syndrome” down and get back to something more Wii-friendly and easier on the eyes, like “Wii Sports.”

"Alien Syndrome" just feels old — too old to justify shelling out $50 at the local game store. If "Alien Syndrome" was released over Nintendo's Virtual Console as a 2,000-point ($20) purchase, it would be a good deal to go back and relive the glory days of mindless alien zapping. But with sketchy controls and dull graphics, save your money for “Metroid Prime: Corruption” or “Halo 3” and really sock it to that alien scum.

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