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PSP  header logo

Alien Syndrome

For: PSP

Hack 'n' slash goes galactic

Product: Alien Syndrome | Developer: Totally Games | Publisher: Sega | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, RPG | Players: 1-4 | Version: US
 
Alien Syndrome PSP, thumbnail 1
Summer is a notoriously slow season for gaming. Between dips in the pool and holidays away from home, it's difficult to find the time to play. Even when you do, trying to get a good view of your PSP's screen can be awfully hard with the sun glaring down on you.

Fortunately, Alien Syndrome requires little in the way of sight and lots in the way of button-mashing. And although flawed, this traditional action role-playing game still offers a decent amount of fun under the sun.

As Lieutenant Aileen Harding, the game charges you with a mission to survey a derelict spaceship on the edge of the galaxy. The Seti-Alpha 5 Terraforming Station had been assigned to prepare a distant planet for human habitation; however, no communication has been received from the vessel in weeks and Lt Harding is thus sent in to find out why.

Traversing the ghost ship's various decks, you confront enemies forming part of – wait for it – the alien syndrome. Capable of corrupting mechanical systems and melding with them to create cybernetic lifeforms, the syndrome is a rather nasty foe.

Thankfully, a full arsenal of weapons equips you for hacking aliens to pieces, rewarding you with experience for every slice. Earn enough experience and you gain a level, which in turn grants you upgrade points for enhancing core attributes, unlocking new weapons and armour, or boosting special abilities. Action role-playing doesn't get any more straightforward than this.

Before you dock with the ship and begin your mission, the game prompts you to select from five soldier specialities: demolitions expert, firebug, seal, tank, and sharpshooter. Each speciality, better known as a character class, comes with a default weapon and varying attribute values. For example, the tank class has a high strength value, but average dexterity, accuracy, and endurance. Conversely, the sharpshooter possesses great accuracy but lower strength, dexterity, and endurance.

The differences among classes initially seems significant, but after gaining a few levels' worth of experience they become negligible. Weapons not belonging to your chosen speciality can easily be unlocked by assigning an upgrade point to that weapons category. Any gap between your core attributes can therefore be closed after a few levels.

In practice then, specialities only matter in the game's first couple missions, after which you have enough freedom to develop your character any way you want. It's great that Alien Syndrome offers so much freedom in character development, but in effect it largely negates the purpose of having soldier specialities.

Jumping into the fray, you'll notice that class distinctions are also minimal within the context of other elements. The default difficulty, for instance, is rather muted. Enemies are easily defeated, which is perhaps one of the reasons why the game throws dozens towards you at any given time in order to boost the challenge. No worries though, because while it's undeniably satisfying, the copious amount of health packs available in the game makes it nearly impossible to die. Additionally, Aileen comes equipped with a shield that cuts damage in half with a tap of the L button.

To be clear, the ease of combat doesn't necessarily destroy the game's appeal. Set your expectations accordingly and the button-mashing action can be quite enjoyable. Alien Syndrome is intended as a straightforward action role-playing game and, to this end, it succeeds.

Depth to the game comes in the form of item crafting. Enemies routinely drop resource points that can be spent on creating new items, weapons, and armour. A mobile mechanised smithing station that follows at your side, the Sentient Combat and Recycling Assembly Bot (SCARAB), can immediately pump out objects when fed resource points. New items constantly become available via SCARAB, which makes Alien Syndrome as much an action-oriented game as it is an exercise in resource management.

Indeed SCARAB joins in on the action, launching electrical blasts at enemies. You can upgrade its abilities too, so it shoots stronger bursts of energy, heals you during combat, or even boosts your shield's regeneration rate. Since the single-player campaign doesn't include party members other than Aileen, SCARAB serves as a decent substitute, even if it's light on customisation.

It's worth noting it is possible to join up with a maximum of the three friends in ad-hoc mode for a cooperative romp through the campaign. Infrastructure support would have been nice, but then again allowing four-player cooperative is a feature often lacking in other role-playing PSP games, so it's certainly welcome here.

Between a single-player sojourn and multiplayer adventuring, Alien Syndrome packs in a decent amount of gameplay. A handful of shortcomings prevent it from being a memorable experience and yet, in many ways, it gets the job done. It may be some way from being the most original or polished action role-playing game around, but as a distraction from the usual summer activities it proves an enjoyable blast.
 
Alien Syndrome
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 3 August 2007
Resisting the action-packed role-playing adventure awaiting you in Alien Syndrome is futile. While not terribly innovative, it's a solid title with flaws that can easily be overlooked in favour of a good time
 
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