Thoughts On… Alien Hominid HD

AlienHominidHD_screenshot6

Publisher: Zoo Digital Publishing, Microsoft (Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Behemoth, Tune Technologies (GBA) 
Year of Release: 2005, 2006,
2007
Platforms: Playstation 2, Gameboy Advance, Xbox Live Arcade
 

Over my years of playing games I’ve discovered something I like to call the "Charge Difficulty-Enjoyment Peak". Quite simply, there is a point where high difficulty is still enjoyable without becoming tedious. This peak leads to a certain group of games that are still really fun but really hard. And Alien Hominid from the Behemoth unfortunately falls just outside of this peak. Its more in the “OH GOD WHY, WTF WERE THESE GUYS THINKING, THIS FEELS LIKE TORTURE” school of thought, a realm also populated by physics exams and Mega Man.

I bought Alien Hominid for one very simple reason – I wanted to unlock the Alien character for Castle Crashers which can only be done by getting a achievement from Behemoth’s first Xbox Live Arcade game. I had no interest in this game that I’d only really heard about in passing. In fact I didn’t have a bloody clue what it was.

To the uninitiated, Alien Hominid HD is a side scrolling shooter setting you as the titular Alien. After being shot down by "The Man" you crash land on Earth leading to Gmen taking away your saucer and requiring you to cut, shoot, grenade and jump your way to find it later. Oh and you play a yeti as well at one point in Russia but that seriously makes no sense. In fact most of the game is completely nonsensical. It features dancing agents in suits! In suits!

Humour is all well and good but without gameplay, its all worth very little. You play with up to three friends across a variety of levels from New York to Area 51 (dropping into Russia along the way) and you must simply cross the level fighting through hordes of normal goons as well as at least two bosses per level. You die in a single hit so its all about avoiding being hit by jumping or ducking out the way. Basically, it plays like Metal Slug which means one thing – Alien Hominid is very hard. In fact I’ve made hardly any progress on it at all as its just too frustrating. Its obvious homage to the old arcade games, whose difficulty kept the money coming in as you thread penny after penny in the slot just to get through it. I really dislike this, as its based off a system that is no longer used. We don’t have to put quarters in to keep playing, we just play seeing as we bought the game and its using our hard drive space. On top of the main games adventure, the game also has a set of effectively puzzle levels. These are all in an old school platforming style. They are a nice little add on but even so not worth buying the game for.

Of course with the Behemoth guys, sound and graphics are a pretty major thing that differentiates them from other games. Dan Paladin’s art is a characteristic that can be seen a mile away. I really like this art style. However, if like me you first played this game after playing Castle Crashers, it seems a bit rougher with less finesse. That said, all of the characters are full of personality from the agents you mince through like a knife through butter up to the giant bosses that fill the screen. Its a visual treat with explosions filling the screen as your alien fights his way through the hordes. The sound is what you’d expect from Behemoth and does make this game one not to play early in the morning after a hard night drinking.

I want to like Alien Hominid due to the cheerful delight it has in its visuals and sound but its gameplay just makes it impenetrable, even on easy. It appeals only to a certain type of people who enjoy second perfect timing and learning levels to the T. I’m not a fan but if you like this sort of thing this is one to pick up.

Thoughts on… Oscar Nominated Films

(This has been sat in my drafts for a while and so has lost some of its relevance. Like many internet memes)

So the Oscars have been and gone and Hurt Locker won Best Picture (spoilers). However, I made it my mission late last week to watch as many of the nominations as possible. I missed out one or two (mainly the romantic comedies) but the rest I grabbed and watched (most over a single night). So here’s my thoughts from someone who doesn’t normally review movies, revealing as little plot as possible;

Avatar

I saw this in the cinema in 3D late last year and really enjoyed. Just after I got out of the film, I admit I was caught up in it. James Cameron did an excellent job in creating the world of Avatar to a point where it was encapsulating. In fact, the film created a kind of depression in several people which was interesting. The visuals are stunning making it hard to distinguish which bits are CGI and which are the actual actors. Another part of this is the design – the creatures, equipment and settings all make sense, a commodity that can be hard to find in most sci-fi.

However, the film does have its limitations. The plotline is very similar to Dancing with Wolves and Pocahontas but this point has been made a few too many times. Just because it’s similar doesn’t make it bad, its just predictable. The film is also a bit too long with a large section in the middle that could be condensed down.

The film won three awards in Art Direction, Cinematography and Visual Effects which shows what Avatar is – an excellent technical achievement but not a top of the range film overall.

District 9

This film is one I enjoyed so much I picked up on DVD on release. Its the project that Peter Jackson and Neil Blankomp worked on instead of the promised Halo film and thank go they did. Instead of a film pandering to the masses, we got a smart intelligent science fiction film about a rare situation where its the humans who are in charge of the alien refugees. The film has a grittiness in style and tone most films wouldn’t show, complete with gore, swearing and casual interspecies racism which at times can be a bit jarring.

I was quite annoyed that Sharlton Copey (the main character) wasn’t nominated for best actor as his performance was amazing. He plays a character that as the film goes on, changes from being a weak willed geeky idiot who it is hard to like to some one who your shouting for at the end and is to all intents and purposes, a super hero. The film also does well in the aliens -  they look otherworldly yet at the same time are very expressive. Its a common thing amongst those who watch it to find its the aliens who are the better humans as opposed the the collection of gangsters, mercs and corrupt officials who are weak, corrupt, evil or just plain stupid.

Its a real shame it didn’t win anything but against its competition its not surprising. But its many people personal choices and although it might not have the awards to back it up, District 9 is a film I really enjoyed.

Hurt Locker

The big winner of the evening with 6 awards was a film I missed out at the cinema. However, when I was watching it it was hard to look away. This is a truly intense film. I don’t know how realistic it is, but if some sections are true my respect for anyone out there has gone up by a lot. And I still thinking EODs are lunatics. The film does have a message about how soldiers are becoming addicted to the adrenaline fix that war provides, but apart from the start and the last few scenes it isn’t forced in your face

The film itself actually feels slightly disjointed – each of the incidents is almost self contained and formulaic. That said, the scene are brilliant. One that stands out is when the bomb disposal team is outside of the city and they encounter a unit of British mercs under Lord Voldermort himself (an excellent Ralph Fiennes). After a misunderstanding, the two teams get to talking. Its just showing two groups of guys chatting. Yet the audience just knows something is about to happen. It leads into another tense sequence that is just one of many from beginning to end. A similar sequence is on Jeremy Renner’s character’s first day which has one of the best “Ohhh shiiiii…” moments I’ve seen for a while. It doesn’t have the shaky cam of Saving Private Ryan yet even so the camera work feels realistic. It also isn’t just about guys shooting each other – there are very few sequences that have any combat in. Instead most of it is just the fear that any second now hell will come rolling out from behind every tiny piece of trash.

The film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor,  Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing which is pretty good for a film made for $11 Million, some of which came from the director Kathryn Bigalow. This is a film that has to be seen.

Inglorious Basterds

Ah yes, Mr Tarantino. We liked your work and you promised us a pulp World War 2 action film about killing Nazis, scalping and movies while at the same time people being killed in the characteristic Quentin Tarantino way. And its a great film. But compared to some of his older films such as Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs its not quite so good.

The plot line is hilarious and it has some of the ‘70’s styling that Grindhouse used to great effect. In fact it feels like one of those boys own adventures film filled with tales of daring do and Nazis going “Aiiiieee!!!”. But it contains several subplots featuring an escaped Jew gaining revenge, a British spy and the Basterds themselves. The spy is a bit of a throw away character though which is a real shame as the scenes he is featured in are among the best. However the best actor in the film has to be Christoph Waltz, who plays Hans Landa. Landa is the usual evil Nazi, but plays him to be charming and intelligent. Yet behind his mask of nicety there is a core of cunning. Its hard to describe just what makes him good so seriously, go and watch it.

Waltz won Best Supporting Actor which was well deserved. And good thing to as otherwise I would have to eat my hat.

Up

Ah yes the Pixar film. I dismissed this at the cinema based primarily on the trailer which revealed precisely bugger all. I found it hard to get excited about a trailer that features a grumpy old man and an annoying boy scout.

However when I read twitter and saw every raving about it and then with the Oscars coming up I gave it a watch. And it is really good, easily one of Pixar’s best film. Yet its also one of their most mature. The opening ten minutes or so has very little dialogue but is simultaneously the happiest and the most depressing intro to a film I’ve ever seen. It also seems to be a film that know that in reality most of it audience aren’t kids but in fact their parents. And Russell the kid isn’t really annoying! The talking dog they find it pretty good as well. In fact the plot is just a bundle of laughs and a good adventure film. I only watched it in 2D and nothing seemed like I was missing out by not having the 3rd dimension (don’t you dare be pedantic about that statement – i know full well that Up in 2D would be a bunch of dots) though some of the early sequences with the balloons would be spectacular.

Up is only the second animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award as well as a bundle of other award on the technical side. It won both Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score both of which are well deserved.

Up In The Air

 

Originally I had no plan to see this film. It looks like a romantic comedy featuring George Clooney, a film setup very close on my hate list to Sprouts and Gok Wan.

However when you watch it, its a bit harder to work out what it is. There is some comedy, but its not laugh out loud hilarity. There is some romance, but not much at all. Instead its a film about people, with George Clooney playing a man whose job it is to fly round the States helping companies to lay people off. He extols his life which is free of relationships with people and things. He is in fact a bit of a prat. The film is more about how he changes as a person when his lifestyle is threatened by an upstart idea and when he meets someone he cares about.

Its a really good film. I actually really enjoyed it – its a film where you know it will end happily in a way. I do recommend watching it as I find it a bit hard to really get any opinion of detail on it.

Some more articles like this should be coming soon alongside money making articles