Platforms: PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox (Europe Only), Gizmondo
Genre: 2D Sidescrolling Shooter
Developer: The Behemoth
Publisher: O-3 Entertainment (North America), Zoo Digital (Europe)
Release Dates: November 11, 2004 (NA PS2/GC); May 31, 2005 (EU PS2/Xbox)
ESRB Rating: T

Let's face it, 2D games are a dying breed, and have been for quite a while now. Sure, we have the occasional Viewtiful Joe or Gradius V, and SNK continues to churn out ports of their old Neo Geo games, but by and large, console games are 3D affairs. The last bastion of 2D gaming for a while now has been the handheld market, especially the Game Boy line; but with the advent of decent-looking full-3D on handhelds (in the form of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP), the days of 2D gaming are numbered indeed. So it's refreshing to see a new 2D shooter on the home consoles, especially by a previously unknown developer and publisher.

Alien Hominid started its life as a Flash game on Newgrounds. Its amateurish graphics, senseless cartoon gore, and frenetic gameplay won it a huge following, leading to the creation of this console version. The publisher, O-3, is headed by Bill Gardner, formerly President of Panasonic of America and Capcom of Europe, and Alien Hominid is the company's first title. Because people are unlikely to buy a game for thirty dollars when they can get the same thing for free, The Behemoth and O-3 added two more multi-level stages to the game for a total of 16 levels, as well as a number of minigames and a 201-level collection of "PDA games".

The plot of Alien Hominid is quite simple: you (the "Alien Hominid") have engine trouble while hovering over Earth, and an FBI agent (whose job apparently consists of watching through satellite cameras for alien spacecraft) wakes up from his nap to blast your ship out of the sky. After the crash, they steal your spaceship, but somehow leave you behind. Now you have to fight through thousands of FBI agents and their various weapons and robotic contraptions to get your ship back.

The gameplay in Alien Hominid is truly frantic, reminiscent of Gunstar Heroes or the Metal Slug games. Your character is constantly outnumbered and outgunned, and often has little place to run (especially during boss fights). Bullets fly every which way, and one hit will cause you to lose a life (unless you have a shield). Luckily, you can get power-ups with special weapons either from dead FBI agents (or later, soldiers) or from the Fat Kids (who're mad at the FBI for stealing their ice cream). In a pinch, you can also grab agents and throw them, or land on their shoulders and bite their heads off (which will freak out any agents who witness it). The difficulty level is extremely high; even playing on normal mode, I usually went through most of the five credits (of five lives each) in each level - I never would've beaten this game if you had to start at the first level each time, and even so, I had to turn the difficulty down to easy to beat the final boss. (To give you an example: One mid-level boss is a robot which alternates between running after you - killing you if it hits you - and firing an impossible-to-avoid laser beam. The charging can only be avoided if you never stop moving, and the beam can only be stopped if you hit him enough times while he's powering it up. I should note that this is one of the easier bosses in the game.)

Alien Hominid does have its bad points. There is slowdown in some parts of the game when many objects are on the screen, especially in the Playstation 2 version. The "Piñata Boss" minigame is particularly guilty of this; everything runs in slow motion during it. It can also be difficult to make out bullets because they tend to blend in with the game's bright, often solid-colored backgrounds. There's also an issue with an ill-placed "memory match" puzzle in one of the later levels; the developers failed to take into account that certain ammunition types will cause you to hit more than one button at a time - a fact that will get your alien killed. And of course, there will be a lot of people who will find the game's difficulty level extremely frustrating - it's certainly not for beginners.

All that said, if you yearn for some good 2D action, you can't go wrong with Alien Hominid.

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