You'll have to forgive us old timers for getting our bloomers in a twist over a new Alien Syndrome game. We who spent the mid '80's pumping arcade machines full of shiny currency called "quarters" or praying to an ancient relic called the Sega Master System carry very fond memories of the top-down sci-fi shooter. So it's comforting that the PSP's Alien Syndrome update plays a lot like the game we know and love, with a few RPG-style elements thrown in to reward our fifteen or so years of monk-like patience.
Playing as Lieutenant Aileen Harding, you get to choose from any one of five character classes, ranging from demolition expert, survival hero, or champion of fire (flamethrower, baby!) - carrying two guns and a melee weapon you can cycle through on the fly with the push of a button.
And with the help of your robot sidekick, SCARAB (you better believe that's a reaching acronym) you can level up your arsenal and armor while earning experience towards a wealth of stats and attributes. Plus you can try switch to any other class and without losing the character you've built up or your saved progress. All cool stuff, right?
Certain controls just don't work as well on the PSP. The system has long since accepted it's inability to fire weapons accurately, but we've seen top down shooters that perform much better than this. Since you can only fire in the direction you're running/facing, you'd best equip some kind of auto targeting item or up your critical hits stats. At least if you want to make it through this infested spacecraft with any ammo. It can't hold a candle to the roving reticule found on the Wii, but fortunately, the Melee combos fare much better with buttons.
The PSP's small screen does a lot to mask the pitiful graphics of the Wii version. But as passable as the visuals are on the portable, they're largely bland and lifeless with enemies just as repetitive and uninspired as the level design. A little more variety and intelligence in the enemies could've saved this shallow shooter, but alas, the fast paced action quickly devolves into yawn inducing tedium.
Blasting the shit out aliens is a time honored gamer tradtion, but even the well executed RPG attribute system can't hide the fact that Alien Syndrome is a shooter that just can't shoot straight. As frantic as the action is at times, its drab visuals, control issues and lack of enemy polish brought us to the point of boredom.