When it comes to producing humourous platformers, The Behemoth never misses. Their distinctive art style is instantly recognisable, however, many forget where it started. Alien Hominid HD is a timely reminder.
While some could argue that the early 2000s game, Alien Hominid, did not need a remaster, bringing new life to the game that started it all felt like a breath of fresh air. With most current AAA releases feeling like a race to have the biggest, toughest-to-explore game, tackling a side-scrolling platformer was the perfect break I needed.
In the remastered Flash game, you are assigned the role of a little yellow alien, whose mission is, simply, to retrieve their crashed aircraft and return home. Much like any other of The Behemoth’s games, it is not that straightforward in practice however: As the levels progress, it is not uncommon to be faced with a large boss who crushes you with one hit, and this challenging theme is consistent throughout the game — it’s arcade hard.
With only a limited amount of lives available, each hit is difficult to stomach. Knowing that once all lives are diminished, the level will restart was always at the forefront of my mind. It meant that there was a degree of extra caution required when exploring a new section of a level. Being bested and made to restart a level was frustrating at first, however with the acquired knowledge from the run prior, you can recognise the attack patterns of enemies, finding a solution to reach the final stage — something which felt like an achievement in itself.
Growing up playing The Behemoth’s BattleBlock Theatre, I was familiar with the way the games played and respected the art direction the developers used consistently throughout their games. As an original Flash game with few resources available, Alien Hominid had a great story that was easy to follow even without a narrator or on-screen prompts. When playing the remaster as an older individual, I was able to understand the implicit comedy the developers have injected into each level, which would go straight over a less-observant player’s head. Without creating a distraction from the intense combat, these tongue-in-cheek gags made me smile as my eyes looked at the background of the multilayered platformer.
The art style did show its weakness during combat, as the multilayered approach often blocked the view of enemies or the player themself, resulting in many lives being lost to confusion. Due to being a remaster of a 2002 Flash game, this didn’t bother me too much, however, I would have hoped a quality-of-life improvement was included along with the updated visuals.
I did feel, however, that the controls for the game were hidden from players at first, as there were no on-screen instructions or control schemes. This guaranteed trial and error and I mistakenly reached the halfway point of the game before looking at the control setting and being surprised to see there was more to the simple gun-running. Learning new mechanics such as the “dig” which allowed the Alien to burrow under the ground and grab enemies from below was particularly useful, as it provided a brief respite from enemies.
The primary weapon of choice in Alien Hominid HD is a futuristic space blaster. Being a single-fire gun, mashing the “X” button to shoot in rapid succession is the main occurrence when pitted against large swarms of the FBI. While the default weapon is powerful enough to get through the game alone, the high school human ally, Fat Kid, appears at each level to supply the player with a power-up.
It was a nice cameo to see Fat Kid as the game progressed, although I’m still wondering how he managed to survive Soviet Russia and live till the present day… Regardless, the powerups available consist of additional ammunition and grenades with different themed effects. Blue-coloured power-ups provide Alien Hominid with frozen tech to freeze enemies on contact, Red power-ups transform the blaster into a flamethrower, purple a laser blaster, with even more supplies to give the player an edge in combat.
Acting as the opposition, the FBI is commonly the target for Alien Hominid, the agents thankfully only take one bullet to defeat; the same characters are found in the “Russian” map as soldiers and Area 51 Soldiers in the third and final map. Each map introduces new elements such as tanks, and new bosses, as well as boosting the enemies with increased combat sense. Moving from one map to another was an obvious jump in difficulty, and the taste of victory from the previous was short-lived.
Being consistently slaughtered by a giant soviet robot (yes that is a real boss) was far from enjoyable, but the relief I felt once dishing out the final hit was rewarding. On the topic of rewards, a player’s willingness to overcome a challenge appears to be the biggest factor in how satisfied they are when surviving a long-winded level. The only physical achievement received is a new “hat” to apply to your alien friend which doesn’t really feel sufficient as a reward and I would like to have seen more customisation options for the main playable character added in with the Alien Hominid HD upgrade instead.
As a fan of The Behemoth’s other titles, playing Alien Hominid for the first time, with the updated resolution, was a fun and — dare I say it — brutal experience. Having seen gameplay from the original 2002 release, it appears the improved graphics are the only benefit of this remaster. For this reason, I would recommend playing Alien Hominid HD if you are looking for a change of scenery from other side-scrollers, however the lack of improvements from the previous game, in my opinion, doesn’t justify purchasing if you have already completed the original.