It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains is an indie twin stick shooter which originally released on Steam and is now available on Nintendo Switch. When this game came across my desk for review… who am I kidding I’m not important enough for a desk! Anyway, when I first heard of this, the first thing I did was check out a trailer and instantly I became excited by this funny and quirky looking game. Unfortunately when I played the actual game itself it was missing the character and charm which I had felt in that trailer. That’s not to say it’s a bad game but definitely could have been better.
ICFSAAOB (even as an abbreviation this title is too long!) has six levels to play though with a choice of four difficulty settings ranging from easy to insane. The aim of each level is to shoot your way through the barrage of aliens that try to attack you and keep reaching the many safehouses which act as checkpoints. Along the way you come across boxes which can contain anything from health boosts to special one-off attacks, you can only use one of these at a time though, so I often found myself wasting a special item when coming across more of these containers in hope of finding something better. The fact that these aliens never stop coming means that a lot of the time you are forced whether to choose between going for the boxes and risking being penned in by the alien onslaught or just running for your life. This adds a certain level of tension and excitement to the game which I enjoyed a lot.
There’s also a survival mode which is quite good but nothing groundbreaking. It’s exactly what you’d expect as you attempt to survive wave after wave of enemies and is a good way to pass the time if you’re only looking for a quick session.
You can also pick up experience points as you play which you can then spend on different weapons. However there’s a twist, this all resets at the beginning of every level so be prepared to rush around quickly at the start of every level trying to collect as many points as possible to reclaim your favourite weapon. Although I enjoyed this fresh mechanic, I found myself gravitating to one particular gun (the badass blue laser gun) and once I had that, the experience points I’d pick up through the rest of the level were essentially pointless outside of just upgrading my weapon of choice. I think I’d have enjoyed it more if I was forced to swap between weapons, maybe it would have been a good idea if the player needed different guns for different enemy types.
Speaking of enemies, the aliens themselves are great fun to destroy. As I said above, they will just keep coming and coming and it’s easy to get yourself swamped if you’re not careful. Your best bet is to just run and shoot. They pose a particularly tough challenge though when attacking the alien eggs at the end of a level. At this point they will attack you in great numbers and the option to just simply run away isn’t there, meaning you must stand your ground and try destroy the egg before the swarm of aliens kill you. This was a real highlight for me, in fact every part of the actual gameplay is a lot of fun and is where ICFSAAOB really shines.
The level designs are where things begin to frustrate me. On the surface the game is quite nice to look at, the mostly smooth grey environments are constantly lit up with the vibrant colours of laser guns, aliens being smashed to pieces and the colourful playable characters themselves. Unfortunately though there’s not much to distinguish one part of the level from the other, meaning there were plenty of times I’d be running away from aliens towards a safehouse only to find I’d been turned around and it was an old checkpoint, but how was I to tell when it all looks the same? It also meant that when repetitively shooting enemies over and over began to get a little tiresome, it left me no reason to soldier on. It looks bland and given how quirky and hilarious the trailer is, it sucks that the entire aesthetic of this game is bland and boring. Level designs all blur together as one, the soundtrack is basically non existent and even the dull music we do have is drowned out with the constant sound of bullets firing.
On top of that, there’s literally zero story here. Seriously, there’s nothing. I was expecting at least some comic strips with a little humour but no, you’re just thrown in with no explanation. I understand this is a small indie title but I’ve played plenty of games similar which have still been able to tell a half decent story and give me a reason to play on. There’s also a serious lack of achievement system other than a high score for every level, but there’s no rewards for hitting a high score other than maybe to brag amongst friends. Speaking of friends, a major selling point for this title is the co-op.
ICFSAAOB supports local co-op which I imagine would make this a more enjoyable experience, it’s annoying though that there is no online support meaning that me and Javier (despite both having the game) were enable to play together without making the long trip to meet up. Now I understand that that’s just now the cookie crumbles but given that this isn’t going to be a household name, it would be nice if I could jump on with my few friends who do own the title. The co-op is also only playable on Switch with two full controllers, eliminating the possibility to play with joycons. For a game that really pushes it’s fun co-op mode, it sure is hard to actually get onto it!
All in all, if you really enjoy twin stick shooters then you’ll likely have a ton of fun with ICFSAAOB for a good hour or so. Though it won’t be long until the dull and uncreative level designs mixed with a boring soundtrack and lack of story drives you away. It’s a real shame because there’s big potential here for a fun and exciting game but I couldn’t help but be left feeling a bit bored and disappointed. Add to that the difficulty to bring in a friend to make it more fun and you’re left with a mostly unsatisfying experience. Something as simple as a few amusing cutscenes and a fun soundtrack in the same style as the games trailer would have gone a long way in making this a great indie game. As it stands though, it’s nothing more than an indie shooter with good mechanics and literally nothing else. But hey, if you’re the type who really doesn’t care about a narrative, loves twin stick shooters and will likely have your own music playing in the background anyway then I’d say give this a go. For everyone else though, maybe give this one a miss. I give It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains