Some games deliver story. Some games deliver thrills. Other games deliver spades of mindless hardcore killing. And that is where the brilliantly titled It Came from Space and Ate our Brains comes in.
A twin-stick shooter, It Came from Space on Xbox One does away with the need for any kind of proper backstory, and at no point in time will you be worrying about why you’re found working your way through multiple alien-filled stages. All you’ll care about is where the next kill is coming from, and how on earth you’re going to continue surviving against the hordes ahead. But thankfully this is a game that sets its stall out early, and then continues pushing on with the same ideas for a good few hours, with lengthy levels that will test your skills, deliver plenty of upgrading opportunities and ensure that your mind becomes a mess from the constant need to shoot, shoot and shoot some more.
It Came from Space and Ate our Brains runs down two rather specific routes in terms of the gameplay ideas; Campaign and Survival do however both boil down to one thing – shooting aliens in the face.
The Campaign will have you working your way through six different areas, taking you through places like the sewers, through some alleyways, out to the countryside and into a crash site. These work like delicate mazes, filled with obstructions that need to be destroyed, pathways to clear, and eventually an alien egg that needs to be discovered and demolished.
These campaign stages are much longer and drawn out than many would imagine, with safehouses working as well placed, much needed, checkpoints. In fact, if I’m totally honest, while it’s nice to see an indie game push out the content, the levels are perhaps just a little too long, particularly when you consider the amount of difficulty that is found within each. See, if it was a simple case of working your way from start to finish without too much of a test, this length would be fine, but the sheer intensity of It Came from Space and Ate our Brains sees you needing to make the most of the checkpoints multiple times, all as you get overrun from the alien foes. This is certainly not a pick up and play game that will allow you to waste a few minutes in order to whack out a stage – sitting down, preparing yourself for what is to come, and getting involved for the long haul is the name of the game here.
Alongside the campaign though is a slightly shorter Survival take on things. And when I say slightly shorter, I do mean that as once again you’ll need to commit some proper game time should you wish to see success.
It is this that does away with the need to wonder through the mazes, instead plonking you in a specific location and asking you to survive as waves upon waves of aliens hit you up. It’s just as tense and manic as the Campaign is, all while failing to ever really deliver too much in terms of much needed variety.
You see, once in with It Came from Space and Ate our Brains, you’ll have seen much of what is on offer within the first five minutes, before being left to plod on for hours to come, taking down enemies, blasting crates to uncover power-ups and essentially attempting to hold on as you try to gather up kill combos and high scores. And in terms of those elements, It Came from Space and Ate our Brains does the job. It’s just that there is a fair old grind that arrives from doing so.
At no point will you find yourself bored though, and discovering the joy in the variety of weapons that are in play is a good one. With the standard pistol the go-to weapon should you wish it to be, and then having a shotgun, machine gun, laser gun, plasma gun and rocket launcher sitting alongside to complement things is much appreciated. Being able to upgrade each of these is great too, and I love watching the small icon which signifies your weapon grow in stature as you plump earnt in-game cash in, creating some seriously explosive weaponry in the process. With a weapon wheel letting you move in between them with ease, it’s a cinch to have a gun to hand for every situation.
That said, the sheer pace of It Came from Space and Ate our Brains and the number of opponents that are constantly incoming means that changing weapons can sometimes be tricky. Perhaps slowing down the action to a snail’s pace whilst any weapon wheel is lifted would be a better, safer, call.
Those aliens that come at you are reasonable in variety too. Pink in colour (mostly), you’ll find small, medium and utter gargantuan monstrosities coming your way. Some will be dashing at you with speed, and others flicking around and dodging bullets. Most will just come in numbers and hope to take you down that way, but you’ll always have to be on your guard. Detail in these guys isn’t of the highest calibre, mind, and it would have been nice to see some more alien types mixing things up a bit more. But hey, they are aliens, they have come from space and they want to eat your brains – a lack of variety in their species is the last of your worries.
So, It Came from Space and Ate our Brains is all good as a single player experience, but the real joy comes from settling down with a few mates and dishing out destruction to the constantly spawning alien forces. Working in a local form only, It Came from Space caters for up to 4 players who know their way around a controller. And let me tell you something now – having a team of alien-beaters working together, reviving each other when the time calls for it, sharing out loot and weaponry pickups and utilising different weaponry to deliver an unstoppable force is brilliant fun. With the screen splitting as player numbers dictate, you can be sure that the overall experience will become an even more manic affair than that which a solo adventurer will take in; it’s an absolute joy to be able to play through the Campaign or Survival levels with friends. It’s a huge shame however that there are no online cooperative options available as that really would be the icing on the multiplayer cake.
It’s a pretty tasty cake already though, yet not everything hits the mark. If I’m honest, and as much as I like the blocky graphical style, the lack of detail and variety in the stages starts to grate after a while. Each and every one plays out with grey hues coming to the fore; only your torchlight and the neon lights of the characters, the aliens, the different power-ups and the shots emitting from your weapons break that up. This means that at the most intense of times, when all hell is breaking loose, It Came from Space turns into a bit of a fireworks show, with light bursting from every corner. But when not? Well, it’s all a bit grey for my liking.
Further to that, and even though the simple twin-stick control scheme is a good one, having to remove your thumb from the right stick in order to hit the B button and make use of a power up is a strange one. Again, like mentioned, this is a fast paced, pretty hectic game, and moving from stick to face buttons for even a split second can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Having a bumper button allocated to that action would be all the better.
Other than that though, and save for a slight bit of slowdown at the very busiest of times, It Came from Space and Ate our Brains on Xbox One does the job of a more than decent twin-sticker. I’d like to have the chance to jump in for just five minutes at a time, would prefer to be able to save throughout the Campaign levels, and it’s crying out for an online cooperative shout. But otherwise if you’re looking for a new twin-stick shooter and fancy firing some destruction towards a bunch of pink aliens, then you could do a ton worse than to fill your boots with It Came from Space and Ate our Brains on Xbox One.