By: Jeff Cater
Super Mutant Alien Assault is a brand new shoot ‘em up platformer brought to us by developers Cybernate. In its introductory title, you’ll assume the role of various security bots that have been assigned the task of protecting the last bit of humanity leftover from an intense extinction-level attack.
With the mutant aliens being numerous, and the weapon supply running thin, Super Mutant Alien Assault aims to provide a hardcore shooter with lighthearted and often silly visuals.
SMAA features an incredibly simple control scheme while making sure that your fingers are still getting a workout. Using either the d-pad or the thumb stick, pressing left or right will make your robot scoot along the stage, and then leap over obstacles with the X button.
To activate a weapon or grenade dispenser you’ll rush up to it and press the circle button. Square will fire your primary weapon and R1 chucks grenades. L1 will activate whichever defensive power-up you’ve obtained. And that’s it. SMAA sets a good example on how to create a simple and intuitive setup that’s very snappy in terms of response time.
We’re accustomed to seeing Indie games mostly feature 8-bit inspired graphics, but those psychopaths are Cybernate thought one day, “Like, what if… what if we had eight more bits?” and then everyone’s eyes glazed over.
SMAA looks like it would’ve been at-home on a SNES or Sega Genesis — and I really dig that. The color use is brilliant, but it takes a bit to reach the more colorful stages. Each “Galaxy” you enter has its own distinct color scheme and gradually introduces more and more varied baddies.
SMAA is a high-energy game that deals with fast pacing and twitch-reaction times, and it rewards players for finding a rhythm in the mayhem. The soundtrack can get a bit grating after a while, as it’s filled to the brim with BWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUB dubstep. It’s not poorly done by any means; it’s just that you can only handle so much of that at one time.
With the tight controls and wonderful visuals, there’s thankfully gameplay to match. Never does the game get overcomplicated, but what it can do is easily overwhelm. Generally, the objective is to survive a relentless attack by grotesque creatures.
While that’s certainly straightforward, the game quickly starts throwing barrels down the ramp at you by adding extra objectives, like cooling down fuel cells that are about to blow, or delivering fuel cells from a storage unit to the delivery mechanism. Not once do you ever have to put your guns down either, which makes for truly quick and ruthless pacing.
As you run weapons dry, you’ll be switching to your sidearm, extracting a fuel cell, re-upping on grenades, waiting for the weapon dispenser to spawn something, jumping over charging enemies, and just generally trying to maintain and refill your health when possible. Suffice to say, you’ll have your hands full.
Plus, you can bring a buddy along for the carnage as well, but you’ll have to be careful with the heavy weapons like the rocket launcher, as friendly fire hurts a lot — you can also accidentally damage and kill yourself very easily.
Earlier I mentioned that the color scheme, while vivid and well done, might initially feel a bit repetitive. What helps suppress that impression is that SMAA features procedurally generated levels, so the textures and objects in any given galaxy might be the same, but the structure of the level won’t.
Flicking on your own music will get you around the soundtrack if you can’t take it, but that’s literally my only real complaint. Super Mutant Alien Assault is a blast with and offers good old-fashioned fun for any side-scroller or platformer fan.