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Super Mutant Alien Assault: Early Access Review

You’re going to die a lot in Super Mutant Alien Assault. I really do mean a lot. At least 50 times.

Don’t let that discourage you though, this game harkens back to ‘Nintendo hard’ difficulty, where everything feels unfairly difficult; that it’s the world against you. And it is, at first. But then everything just clicks. Before long, you’re kicking considerable amounts of alien butt, dying around you, and you feel like a champion.

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Developed by Melbourne-based indie developer Cybernate, Super Mutant Alien Assault throws players right into the 2D platforming, jumping and shooting action.

Only brief tutorials greet you at first, explaining the simple button inputs and game mechanics as you hurtle through space in a spaceship. After that, you’re on your own.

You, a little robot guy, have to find weapon and explosive dispensers, and take on hordes of aliens that are predisposed to mutate quickly, so quick takedowns are essential. Each ‘level’, you’re teleported to a different spaceship that has a different objective.

You may have to contain the ship’s pressure meters, or provide fuel for hyper drive, or just take on wave after wave of aliens. At the end of each ‘world’, or galaxy, you have to fight a boss monster before you can move on.

Graphically, everything feels great. The game uses 2D pixel art, but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to pander to the 2D pixel art retro game-inspired craze that’s been going around, even though it’s been inspired by arcade classics. It just feels right. Musically, however, is where Super Mutant Alien Assault falls short.

The soundtrack consists mainly of techno dubstep-y tunes. It suits the game, and it sounds alright the first few times you hear the tracks, but because players will be practically destined to die a lot, the soundtrack gets grating after a while.

This may be changed in the future, according to a Steam discussion post by developer Chris Suffern. “…[More] songs would be great, and maybe a bit more variety would be cool,” he said. [It’s] a matter of budget really and at this stage I can’t say if I’ll be getting more tracks. But I would like [to add more songs].”

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There aren’t many levels to be had, only twelve, but for what Super Mutant Alien Assault lacks in quantity, it definitely makes up in quality. Everything feels so fine-tuned, and players will spend a lot of time trying to learn how to pass each ship.

Even if players can’t pass many ships, after so many successful ship completions, a new item is unlocked, from new weapons such as a mini-gun or a laser sword to find, or items to start with like a double charge or a force field, and even sometimes new aliens are thrown into the mix. This specific number of twelve levels was chosen on purpose, according to another Steam discussion post by Suffern.

“I’m thinking about a fourth [set of levels], but it was not in my original plan. Personally I prefer my permadeath games on the shorter side …I was trying to hit 30 [minutes] max runs. Currently with [three] galaxies, on middle difficulty…[,] full runs will take on average 25 [minutes]. I fear adding a fourth galaxy would bump that over my target.”

Despite Super Mutant Alien Assault being in Early Access (games that are still be in development, but are able to be purchased), I was taken aback from the level of quality of the game.

Even though this is a 2D platformer, Early Access games are infamous for being buggy, or just bad. Not the case with Super Mutant Alien Assault; everything ran smoothly.

Playing this, I definitely had a feel for the original Mega Man franchise, playing through difficult levels, trying to figure out how I would blast past through the enemies, and dying. Lots of dying.

I thought I would never be able to make it past the first galaxy without dying. Then I thought I would never be able to make it just throughout the normal difficulty. Then I thought I could never make it through the entirety of normal without dying. But I surprised myself. Or Super Mutant Alien Assault surprised me, I’m not sure who did the surprising.

With each death, I learned how to deal with the onslaught. But there’s no way I’ll make it through the Heroic difficulty without dying.

Even with a repetitive soundtrack and few levels, Super Mutant Alien Assault is a fun game with challenging, quality, fun gameplay.

Super Mutant Alien Assault is available now for $9.99 USD ($7.99 USD if purchased before the 27th of August) on PC through Early Access via Steam and the Humble Store, with a full release of the game planned for PC and consoles in 2016.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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