Duke Nukem and the hero of Alien Crisis, Russell, have some things in common: a love of steroids and barbells, a good ol’ boy name, and some big-ass guns. Unlike Duke, Russell doesn’t say anything at all. He just lets his guns do the talking. In this castle defense/brawler mash-up, we liked what they had to say.
Russell is not afraid to delegate responsibility when it comes to cleaning out the hordes of aliens that rush his base. You can set up four turrets around the perimeter, each with familiar tower-defense variations like flames, rockets, machine guns, and electricity. You can also set up a healing tower, which will recharge the shields in front of Russell over time.
Uh, can someone call the exterminator?
Each stage throws waves of enemies at Russell, from four-legged bounding cats with blood-stained tusks to oversized worms and insects. One twist is that they don’t arrive in a straight line, like most tower defense games. Instead, they can charge from the foreground or background, like the enemies in a brawler like Streets of Rage. While the turrets will take out most of the bad guys, especially if you’ve pumped extra resources into upgrading them, you can also control Russell to give your side an extra advantage.
Russell can be moved up and down on the left side of the screen, but not side-to-side. You fire by touching anywhere on the right side of the screen, where the enemies pour out. This control scheme keeps the playing area nice and clear of your fingers, and lets you get a good look at the interesting aliens right before you slaughter them. We would have liked to see more types of alien underlings, but the bosses in particular looked great.
One nice touch is the ability to place a turret on Russell, upgrading his ordinary machine gun into stronger weapons like a flamethrower, rocket launcher, or energy sword. Another essential gameplay element is the way your turrets overheat and have to cool down every minute or so. This adds a bit of depth to what is otherwise a flat-out gunner defense, since you can pay some extra cash to immediately cool down your turrets.
Swatting some flies.
Fundamentally, the gameplay is sound, but the ratcheted intensity in later levels leaves you doing nothing but keeping your shields clear of green alien spittle with the energy sword while your turrets do all the killing. When Russell is fighting alongside the turrets, gaining experience to level up his gear, the game feels a lot more satisfying. The included wifi coop mode also lets you go through survival mode with a friend, which is a pretty cool addition. Turns out, two Russells are way better than one.
Alien Crisis combines the castle defense and side-scrolling beat-em-up genres to make something that feels new. We had a lot of fun with Alien Crisis, but the high level of intensity means it’s not for everyone. If you thought Knights Onrush could benefit from a chain gun with unlimited ammo, Alien Crisis is a great App Store buy for you.