Thanks to KORION for the review code
Title: 1917: The Alien Invasion
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 06/14/2018
In this vertical shooter, the earth is under attack from an alien empire, and a European developer takes it upon herself to use alien technology to build a machine to counterattack the aliens and track them down to their planet for a final confrontation!
Another game, another retro-throwback using 16-bit sprites. Being a vertical shooter, you’d hope there would be some sort of vertical display option for flip grip users, but this game is strictly horizontal only, so the borders are covered by UI elements and such while the main action is in the center of the screen.
Alien Invasion has a very gritty style, and to say that the colors are muted would be an understatement. Everything here is dark and shaded to an extent, with a color scheme that isn’t that pleasing on the eyes at all. Combine that with an excess of blood for the heck of it, and this is a gory and gritty game, which feels a bit odd for a shooter, seeming as if it wanted to be a steampunk game like Steel Empire, but with the gruesome, unsettling factor of titles such as X-Multiply. Even in stages like the space one where there isn’t too much going on, the whole shading and feel of the game is just ugly, and it doesn’t really look that great compared to its inspiration.
The music is also fairly poor here, nothing of interest to note whatsoever as the tracks seem to sound an awful lot like the old European computers of the day, only much worse, and the sound effects are pretty stock for the most part, while an aggressive voice shouts whenever you pick up an item.
Alien Invasion is a vertical shooter where the main objective is to guide your pilot through waves of ferocious enemy aliens, using your two shots to take them out. You have your main shot, a rapid-fire, weak attack using the A button, while a slower, stronger attack can be used with the B button. Besides those moves, you can also summon the power of valkyries with the R button, which acts as your screen clearing bomb here, and comes in handy during tough moments.
Once you pick your plane, (You have to unlock the rest during play, so the default will have to do for a while) it’s off to take on some aliens, and the game seems to control rather decently, with the plane moving at a reasonable speed as you take out enemies. Like any other game in the genre, getting hit without some sort of shield will cause you to die, yet oddly enough, you don’t use up a life, since this game completely lacks them. Instead, when you get sent back to the checkpoint, everything resets. Not just your powerups and bombs as expected, but your score.
On the plus side, this means you can keep throwing yourself at the stage until you finally beat it, but on the negative, this means that there’s seemingly no way to record a high score if it keeps resetting to the state it was in with the checkpoint. Well, you can record a high score locally, but only if you exit out of the game completely, and even then it’s a very clunky process. But going back to the game, the stages are fairly boring, with stretches of little going on, before you’re suddenly bombarded by enemy sponges.
You can get powerups and point items when you destroy them, but all the powerups do is make your main weapon bigger, and it doesn’t do anything interesting besides give more range. You can find other things such as a protective shield, and at the start of a checkpoint you can unlock the combo meter in order to rack up a bigger score multiplier, which locks whenever a boss battle or long stretch without enemies takes place.
This was a decent attempt to give the scoring some extra value, but by the third stage I became mindnumbingly bored by everything. The stages are boring, the enemies are too spongy and the game takes itself far too seriously without bothering to focus on a polished, enjoyable experience. I cannot stress enough that the game only seems to do the bare minimum of the shooter checklist, without taking into account things such as balance, interesting items, fun stages, and tricky enemy waves. In the end, this just feels like busywork, and little else, so I still couldn’t get into this game no matter how many times I tried throwing myself at it to complete it.
In conclusion, 1917 is a poor example of a vertical shooter. Trying to be a tribute to the games of old, it may look decent, but it certainly doesn’t play nearly as well or as tight as any of the classic games from devs like Psikyo. The strange, excessive blood and gore, poor level design and lackluster powerups make The Alien Invasion a very poor choice for a vertical shooter.
I figured the reason I tried this for a half hour back when I got it in mid 2018, and put it down was due to being distracted or getting stuck, but when I gave this another spin to knock down my backlog I realized that I backed away from it for a good reason: It just isn’t a good game at all, and it lacks hardly any sort of engagement whatsoever.
The fact that you have to quit out of the game in order to record your high score is just asinine, and the game feels totally imbalanced and not fun to play. This one definitely needed a lot more time in the oven to polish and balance things, and I just recommend you buy a Psikyo shooter instead.
I give 1917: The Alien Invasion a 4 out of 10.