Publisher: FoxNext Games
Rating: T for Teen
After the somewhat polarizing reviews for Alien: Isolation, fans of the franchise weren’t sure if they would get another game in the series. Starring Amanda Ripley, the daughter of heroine Ellen Ripley from the Alien movie franchise, Isolation was a hide and seek survival horror romp wrought with tension. FoxNext Games and D3Go’s latest iteration, Alien: Blackout, is a mobile title with gameplay most reminiscent of Five Nights at Freddy’s. While not a direct sequel to Isolation, Blackout does pick up sometime after the first game with Amanda Ripley stranded on a derelict space station while waiting for a small rescue team to pick her up. Players watch over camera feeds and a map of the environment while trying to lead the last remnants of Ripley’s rescue crew to safety and avoid the sneaky Xenomorph on board. With the latest console Alien title having released in 2014, it is understandable that fans were none too thrilled when the pseudo-sequel was first announced. So how does the Alien franchise fair on mobile? Keep reading to find out, but watch out for any Xenomorphs dropping down on you from above!
Violence: With this being a game set in the Alien franchise, environments feature burnt or charred corpses and some light blood and splatters of blood on the walls throughout each level. However, as this is a mobile title and accessible to a much larger audience, most of this is contained to nothing worse than what you might find in a PG-13 film. There won’t be any Xenomorph babies bursting out of a crew member’s chest in this game!
Language: Language is minor and surprisingly scarce. I didn’t hear any F-bombs during my time with the game and only words like d#*n, and s**t are included and usually only when the NPCs are startled or surprised by the Xenomorph.
Alien: Blackout is a fun diversion while on a long road trip or while in the bathroom after an impromptu trip to Taco Bell. As a whole, the game can be completed in one sitting as there are only 7 levels and minor variations in strategy in how players can choose to avoid or trick the Xenomorph. Gameplay is simple and involves three main aspects that players will have to monitor for each level.
Similar to Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF), players have to monitor varying numbers of doors and entryways to a ventilation shaft in which Ripley is hiding, and must use security cameras and a motion sensor to track the Xenomorph and safely guide crew members along a specified path. Players can use their finger to manually draw a path for the NPCs to follow and can tap the door icon on the map to open and close doors. This can add a layer of strategy to the game as players can use this feature to lure the Xenomorph away from the crew. However, this alien doesn’t play dumb for long and if Amanda makes too much noise from opening/closing doors or issuing orders to the crew, the Xenomorph will come directly for her and it is game over if players can’t figure out where the alien is coming from and shut the door in time. This plays out just like monitoring the office doors in FNAF.
If a member of Ripley’s crew happens to see the Xenomorph before it sees them then Ripley can issue the Hide command and the selected crew member will quickly scramble to find a hiding place. Luckily, players can even issue this command while the crew are completing objectives. Once the coast is clear, Ripley can then command her crew members to continue on. The most efficient method I found while playing was to lure the alien to the opposite side of the map from the current objective by sporadically opening and closing doors. This allowed me to essentially lock the Xenomorph in a room for a few seconds at a time to allow my crew to gain some ground in the level. This simple but surprisingly deep gameplay mechanic is the main crux of the game, and thanks to some surprisingly good AI for the Xenomorph I was never able to rely on any one strategy for too long. Sometimes I would try to box the Xenomorph in only for him to hide in the vent until my crew walked by before turning them into a midnight snack.
There are three ways to fail a level in Blackout and two of them can happen at any time. First, if the Alien finds and reaches Ripley before she can close the door to her hideout it is an instant game over. The screen cuts to the Game Over menu while Ripley’s terrified screaming can be heard. While this is an obvious attempt to keep the game at a T rating, I felt it added to the tension as you can’t really tell exactly what horrific death the Xenomorph has chosen to exact upon his/her victim. Players must also monitor their power supply as they can only use up to five units of power to close doors or use motion tracking in certain areas of the map to ping the Alien’s location. These units of power can be restored by reopening doors or deactivating the motion sensors.
Secondly, if the entirety of the four man crew is wiped out then it is game over. However, players should keep in mind that dead crew members do not respawn at the start of a new level. Only the remaining crew carries over. Despite this, there are a few moments in some levels where players can earn back a crew member after certain conditions are met. The game is vague on the exact conditions but it seemed that just by completing the first objective I gained a new engineer, who was then immediately eaten by the Xenomorph. Sorry buddy, thanks for being the bait!
Finally, players can lose the game if the time limit expires. This is where Blackout lives up to its title as Ripley has a limited supply of power and after roughly 8 mins that power is depleted and it’s lights out, followed by an instant visit from our friendly neighborhood Xenomorph!
Victory can be achieved by guiding the crew through the completion of three objectives before leading them to the end goal. From here, any surviving crew carries over to the next level and Amanda’s story continues. Though what little story there is mostly comes in the introduction and Ripley’s initial distress call.
Graphically, Blackout is what you would expect from a high-end mobile game. The visuals, while grainy since mostly viewed from security cameras, are detailed enough to be believable though most of my time was spent looking at the overhead map and guiding the crew. The sound design and voice acting are by far the best parts of the game and where most of the tension comes from. I strongly recommend playing this game with headphones for the best experience. At any given moment, players can hear the Alien shuffling through vents, skulking through hallways or devouring its next victim. These moments had me frantically scouring the map for the occasional blip that would give away the Xenomorph’s position while Ripley whispered commands to hide or run for it depending on the situation. The music is suspenseful and just as good as what one could find in any horror movie, and at the right moments, when the eerie music kicks in, the tension is palpable. The voice acting for Ripley is great and on par with what players experienced in Isolation. However, the vocal performances of the rest of the crew are not as strong and the supporting cast are mainly throwaway characters who serve as fodder for the Alien, as Ripley only needs to guide one member of her crew safely through the level to move on.
Overall, Alien: Blackout is a surprisingly fun little mobile game and a tense FNAF clone. However, the existing content is bare-bones and there is little reason to do multiple playthroughs. But for a one time payment of $4.99 and absolutely no In-App Purchases I have to give publisher FoxNext and developer D3Go props here for choosing to simply release a competitively priced Alien offering on mobile without trying to nickel-and-dime their fan base. If you enjoy the Alien franchise and have not completely sworn off mobile gaming, then check this one out. Otherwise, we will have to wait and see what lies in store for Amanda Ripley’s future adventures on console and PC.
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