Today we have an update for Alien Scumbags: a self-described 2D platform horror shooter, developed by Monster Finger Games. It’s got a unique sense of humor and classic 8-bit style and releases on June 17th, 2020. Let’s dive in and see if it’s the next indie gem or a hard pass. The game was initially reviewed in version 7.5.0, this has been updated to reflect it’s current more current state in 7.7.0.
How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Alien Scumbags through the lens of more objective metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics. This product was reviewed on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with a i5-7300HQ.
As far as performance is concerned, there were no issues running Alien Scumbags – not that it’s a particularly demanding game. Framerates were steady, and there was no hitching, frame rate drops or screen tearing. The 8-bit graphics are creatively applied with the characters, and their movements are depictive (considering the low level of detail). User interface is fairly clean, providing players with health and stamina bars, along with a healthpack slot, score count, and an ammo indicator.
Some of the 8-bit environments are certainly noteworthy, while others are unfortunately spoiled in a veil of darkness. The environmental storytelling in some hidden areas are quite captivating and use of the 8-bit style is extravagant. Watching a machine operate, a beautiful set of portals, or stumble onto a guy turning into a zombie is visually satisfying. It’s too bad that these fascinating moments seem momentarily scarce, hopefully, the additional content manages to squeak some more in.
Aside from aim transparency, there are no graphical settings to mention – which makes sense because the game isn’t the exactly taxing. There are no reflection or shading settings, everything is nice and simple so you can just start playing. Visuals have been cleaned up a bit and lighting feels more intentionally applied. Like it or not, it’s a dark game – which will factor into it’s inherent difficulty. Additionally there have been updates to the UI, including the menu.
Characters & Story
Alien Scumbags is a loosely structured parody, with no majorly coherent plot. Players take control of the Master Chef, a Doom Guy/Master Chief inspired parody character and must make contact with the Nostrami, a ship gone dark (Nostrami being a pun on Alien’s Nostromo). After being unable to reach the A-team of video game characters like Duke Nukem and Solid Snake, they’re calling in the C-Team. Other playable characters are unlockable, but I doubt anyone is taking note of what is canon here.
Content & Length
Alien Scumbags has about nine levels and a boss fight, scooping up about 40-80 minutes per playthrough, depending on difficulty. Speaking of which, I love. ‘Pussy!’ difficulty was a genuine breeze, while ‘Taste My Boomstick’ was a far more satisfying challenge. While at times it felt a bit too difficult, that’s probably just the completionist in me. The final difficulty, ‘You’re Dead Fuckface’ is simply accurate, for better or worse, and not for the faint of heart. One interesting detail I thought I’d noticed but am now uncertain of in hindsight, is the darkening of the game (detraction of light sources) as difficulties arise. This has been confirmed by the developer – levels progressively darken throughout levels. There were times when the flashlight would flicker in dark areas, and some of the hidden secrets tucked away in shady rooms may help pad playtime. Environmental lighting will vary dependent on location, which is an interesting detail.
Replayability is also present in the form of Capsule Machines, devices that spit out random items, such as weapons, health, and most importantly: characters. The retention loop is a bit flawed in regards to the collection of its 11 characters. While character drop rates have gotten better in recent updates, functionality has problems. In one run I had gotten 3 character drops from Capsule Machines, but during the subsequent character selection – I had only received one.
Alien Scumbags includes four different weapons, and a few minor collectibles and goodies to find throughout levels. Guns now have recoil, which is a cute detail – and a newly added manual reload for the handgun. This alleviates some previous issues, and is defiantly nice to have. First of which is the Golden Egg, which each level contains and grants players an extra 200 score. As well as the Pro Coins, which.. I’m not sure what they do aside from add score. Perhaps adding these to a collectible menu could further the titles replayability? Additionally, there are collectible audio logs from the Nostrami. Of all the stages, the Bonus level was easily the most creative and fun in my opinion. For as simple as it may have been, it was a joy. Players also have access to various gameplay statistics such as those seen below.
All of this said, the game is currently unreleased and in Early Access. The final release will reportedly include more levels, and story content.
Controls & Gameplay
Alien Scumbags can be played with either mouse & keyboard or a controller. Although the game does recommend use of a controller. Button remapping isn’t included, though it”s not necessary. A/X and Ctrl is used to confirm menus, which is now fairly standard as apposed to the previous use of triggers. A welcome change, indeed.
Overall it’s a fairly standard platformer, with a dark tone and some range based shooting mechanics. Throughout their playthroughs, players will have access 4 weapons including their pistol, a shotgun, a bomb, and a laser.
You are tasked with progressing through levels, preferably killing all enemies and collecting audio logs, golden eggs, and pro coins along the way. A variety of enemies will try to stop you including Alien reminiscent face-buggers, zombies, red killer-jellyfish, murderous spiders with squishy butts you can jump on, and more! Lockers are sprinkled along the way for essential tactical combat-hiding, and there are a few visually pleasing roller coaster-esque segments. It’s all pretty good fun, while nothing groundbreaking.
If players bite the dust, they can expend varying increments of 500 score to revive themselves and continue their adventure. The game’s tone is heavily reliant on a cross of horror and comedic themes. Many of the jokes are in referential forms, with cute easter-eggs like Pokeballs and Yoshi Eggs the sense of humor is often light.
The inventory section of the menu has been opened up, which was anti-climatically just audio tapes and collectibles. That aside I think some minor quality-of-life additions would greatly improve this title. The inclusion of a melee attack could be really useful for breaking boxes or attacking grappling enemies in between reloads. Alternatively, I could understand if that timing is intentional as a part of the challenge. Finally, I had an issue where I was unable to pick up a shotgun drop. Overall shooting and evading enemies is pretty fun if a little shallow.
Sound Design & Cinematics
Moving on to sound design, a minor mechanic that caught my attention was the pacing of the music in relation to player health. As players take damage and inch closer to death, the music speeds up. This creates a sense of frantic urgency for players clinging to a thread of life, I like this detail, and it’s well-executed. Some songs in the soundtrack slap hard, while others are rather plain – almost lifeless. Those that I enjoyed were remindful of the OST in games like Binding of Isaac, or Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Interestingly, this is often offset by intriguing audio transitions between tracks. A small detail I noticed in regards to the different player characters sounding similar has been rectified. While they might each have differently recorded “Badass” lines and quotes, it’s a nitpick nonetheless.
While not overly abundant, the game does contain introductory and outro cinematics. Initially they set the stage for the plot, then loosely addresses the desire for more. One minor note that threw me off was the random American flag superimposed onto the end of a cinematic. It just felt out of place, tonally speaking. Lastly, there is the inclusion of the aforementioned collectible audio logs. These initially seem rather individually disjointed, but collectively contribute nicely to Alien Scumbags. Before the game even starts Monster Finger games’ company logo plays, and while it was hilarious the first few times it gets tedious after opening the game multiple times. The ability to skip the introductory segment has been graciously added, cheers.
It’s difficult to land on a precise rating for Alien Scumbags as it is not a complete game yet. Although the core foundation is there, it still has occasional bug and glitches that sometimes ruin the experience. Usually remedied with a restart, the game isn’t unplayable but definitely needs polish. That being said, the framework for the game is fun and there are moments with immense care and attention to detail. For the apparent asking price of $5.99USD, there is some definite fun to be had here, I just don’t think in its current state it will be winning any game of the year awards. With some updates and fixes to performance, quality of life, and additional content, this could go from an okay experience to an excellent game worth a greater asking price.
In it’s current state 7.2/10: A focused experience with some fun to be had at a very reasonable price. Some very welcome changes had been made since the original review, that genuinely increase the value and playability of this game, bumping it from a 6.4 to a 7.2 Alien Scumbags is still not very long and has less issues, but it’s also unreleased and in early access, for just over 5 dollars – credit where credit is due. Alien Scumbags will be available on Steam on June 17th 2020.
If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our Witch Hunt PC Review?
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Needs Polish But A Solid Foundation, Indeed.
- Score - 7.2/107.2/10
+ Pretty 8-bit Style
+ Interesting Environments, Secrets, and Easter Eggs
– Glitches, Bugs, Not Much Content (Can Be Fixed As Intended Before Release)
– Only One ‘Bonus’ Level
+/- Sound Design Quality Varies Wildly At Times
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.