The attack came out of nowhere; one moment, Earth was a thriving world, strong in political, economic, and military might – In the next, a molten wasteland home only to the dead.
Only three small fleets managed to escape the chaos, fleeing to their ownseparate destinations in an effort to find refuge. As the humans enter cryostasis for the long journey, the defence of these fleets falls to their AI. Falls to you.
Developed by Cybernate, a one-man indie company run by Sydney’s Chris Suffern, Super Mutant Alien Assault tasks you with defending the interiors of your fleet from alien boarding parties. The title originally released back in 2016, but was just released for the Switch – And the Switch version is the one I’ll be playing. The gameplay of the title is very much in the style of arcade platformers of yesteryear, such as Contra or Gunstar Heroes, in that you must clear out areas of increasingly large forces to advance to the next level.
These levels are randomly generated rooms that make up the ship interiors, and you must defend their vital systems (And yourself) from hostile forces. Enemies will crawl in from breaches in the hull or from doors, giving you the advantage of knowing where your enemy will come from, but not when. Whilst you face a finite force per room, as indicated by a progress bar at the top of the screen, enemies may come in hard and fast, or slowly trickle out in an effort to wear you down.
Either way, the longer you leave an enemy alive, the bigger the threat it’ll begin to pose – These aliens are mutants, after all, and they’ll mutant into large, deadlier forms the longer they’re allowed to exist, adding a layer of tension to the already hectic gameplay.
The boss battles in the game, which take place in the final room of each ship, tend to pit you against a super mutated alien and a river of smaller, typical ones, with a truly unique boss here and there. Enemy variety is admittedly a problem with the title – Whilst you will get some new mooks to zap into oblivion, you’ll also be seeing that green charging thing and brain boy a lot, too.
At least it’s a good thing you have so many weapons and abilities to fight them with, then; weapon machines will provide you a random selection from whatever you’ve unlocked so far, explosive machines will provide you with bombs, and you can unlock and discover a variety of defenses, perks, and special abilities to make cutting through the enemy just that bit easier. The addition of sidearms means that when your primary weapon runs out of ammo, you’re not immediately screwed either.
Initially, you only have access to the first fleet, the Normal difficulty, and Otis the Robot as your defaults. As you play through the game, you’ll unlock different galaxies, harder difficulties (Up to Epic, of course) and two other robots. The game doesn’t have a super-long laundry list of things available, but it doesn’t need one: What it promises is quick, difficult platforming action, and it succeeds on that tremendously. And with an unlockable Endless mode, it’s even better.
Another front the game does well on is in terms of graphics – it’s in pixelart, as befitting of the genre, but these sprites are some of the smoothest I’ve seen in a long time – Maybe since Blazblue. The controls are likewise quite buttery, too. And the soundtrack is pretty catchy dubstep, helping further sell the bouncy, chaotic sci-fi the game’s going for in general.
Overall, Super Mutant Alien Assault is a neat, challenging indie title that successfully extends its lifespan through randomisation and genuinely fun gameplay. More enemies and option variety would be good, but it’s not a dealbreaker; this is a competent port of a game that really suits the Switch, in my opinion. If fun, quick chaos sounds like your sort of thing, I’d highly recommend it. The title is now available for $9.99 USD on the Switch’s eShop, and it can also be found on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.