An alien invasion is imminent. Those extra-terrestrial blighters are attacking ships containing oodles of humans in cryogenic slumber. As a security bot, you must punish the blighters with whatever deadly weapons you can get your hands on. Developed by Cybernate, Super Mutant Alien Assault is a canapé of an action-centric side-scroller that’s still quite the flavoursome delicacy on the Switch.
Yes, yes, it’s yet another indie game that has pixelated graphics. Fluorescent colours, detailed visuals and smooth animations make it quite the looker, nonetheless. The sound effects are satisfying, with exception to the gore noises, which sound like the audio has been compressed in post-production. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is a mix of tolerable electronica tunes and obnoxious dubstep tracks to accompany each battle.
You only get four missions split between three different galaxies. The first three will be randomly picked for you, while the fourth will always be a boss encounter. You may need to deliver some doohickeys to another part of the stage, or cool down generators so that they overheat and damage you, before wiping out all enemies to progress. Variation is always a good thing, but there’s not much of that as it is.
In fact, the game can be beaten in about 45 minutes. Good thing it’s a bit of a toughie. Health supplies are limited, checkpoints are nonexistent, and the only way to unlock the additional difficulty modes is to beat every level in one go without dying. Not a Herculean task in its own right, but it’ll require a handful of attempts in order to get the perfect run. The wide selection of unlockable gear certainly makes it worth revising.
Weapons and bombs are randomly spat out of dispensers on each level. They may have limited ammo, but they dish out a lot more damage than your side-arms. A few of them are a bit dodgy to use on smaller maps, e.g. the grenade launcher and sniper rifle, despite packing a serious punch. The goofy ones ones, like the explosive pogo stick and the doughnut-like frisee, are stupidly effective and never give a headache. Then there are special abilities, defense movies and perks, all of which add extra spice to any battle and helps you maneuver around each stage in one piece. While you can unlock some gear to equip your robot with at the start of each playthrough.
As if shooting aliens that fly, bull-charge and jump around wasn’t enough of a nuisance, there’s an additional catch. Most stages have strange gadgets that emit waves of radiation. If an enemy has been around for too long, soon enough they’ll mutate. As a result, they become bigger, stronger, and gain new methods of attack as well. It’s a feature that punishes slowpokes, thus making each level a tad more frantic to play through, especially when health is low and you’re out of ammo. It gets a brownie point for this. The three bosses don’t mutate, but they’re formidable foes with a simple, deadly attack pattern. Having to multitask between slaying the wicked beast and its underlings is eloquently exigent.
Endless mode is an option, though it’s near-enough the same as the main mode, only you start in the harder levels. In fact, once you die, it doesn’t tell you how many areas you’ve beaten. Instead, the scoreboard tells you where you perished. So, if you die before even beating one mission, then you’ve already got a score of 9 as you started on the 9th level. Aside from a couch-play co-op mode, which is a good bit of fun, you won’t find much else. A lack of a map maker mode is a missed opportunity here.
Super Mutant Alien Assault is an enjoyable distraction from time to time. Great gunfights are complemented by some sweet visuals and numerous unlockable doodads. There’s definitely some replayability in what’s otherwise a fairly watered-down side-scroller. The maps, much like the number of objectives you may be randomly be tasked with, are scarce in number, but they do help the title set itself apart from being just another clone of Super Crate Box. Such a shame that the lack of worthwhile bonus modes does feel like a kick in the shin. If you’re longing for a bite-sized ball-breaker with a bit of grinding thrown into the mix, Super Mutant Alien Assault is worth a peek.