It wasn’t too long ago that I was writing about the need for good arcade-like games. There is always a demand for party games, quick pick up and play co-op or competitive and preferably local multiplayer games. It Came from Space and Ate our Brains is one such game, and satisfies the local co-op, pick up and play itch.
It Came from Space and Ate our Brains is a twin-stick shooter played from an isometric perspective with minimalist, neon accented graphics and an emphasis on co-op gameplay. I love twin-stick arcade shooters, and I love co-op games, so It Came from Space and Ate our Brains should be a no-brainer—no pun intended. It’s in the same vein as games like Alien Swarm and Helldivers, and even shares a few ideas with Left 4 Dead.
The premise is simple: aliens invaded and messed everything up in their hungry search for brains. Now, I didn’t think aliens typically ate brains, but for some reason this species capable of travelling through the vastness of space needed to stop by earth for sustenance. It’s not much of a story, but we’ve hardly needed an excuse before to grab a few friends and blast pink aliens, so why demand one now?
You and up to three other friends fight pink aliens through six levels, using weapons like shotguns, machine guns, pistols, and laser guns to dispatch the pink aliens. You can collect power-ups along the way, and must brave hordes of aliens in events as you wait for trains to pass, or doors to open. Weapons can be upgraded with currency collected by killing aliens, or in containers. Your objective is to get through each area to defeat a large alien egg at the end.
As a twin-stick shooter, It Came from Space is mostly competent, if not very exciting. The shooting feels okay enough. As mentioned, you have a selection of laser gun, shotgun, machine gun, etc. Each weapon can be upgraded with currency accumulated by killing aliens, or taken from containers that can also contain power-ups and other items. You purchase weapons at any point by buying them directly from the weapons wheel, same with upgrading. Some of my favorite parts of the game are the beefy, final-form the weapons take. Unfortunately, the aliens you kill with them are just never very interesting.
The pink alien hordes are not very scary—all they have going for them are their large numbers.Their tactics aren’t very clever: all of the enemy types just run at you, except for one that deliberately dodges your gunfire. There are larger, bullet-sponge aliens, but no “special infected” types that will grab your character or otherwise discombobulate your team.
Unfortunately, the rest of the gameplay isn’t very interesting, either. Your main objective is to kill enemies while getting to the next safe room. You basically kill stuff until you get to a safe room. Usually you’ll have to do some sort of horde-like even where you’ll press a button and you have to kill waves of enemies for a set amount of time. Safe houses are a missed opportunity. You don’t get a chance to get health back, nor is there are way to spend currency. Perhaps a vendor with power-ups, or… really, ANYTHING to give your group a reason to stick around and break up the pace for a few moments would have been appreciated.
You can discover items and power-ups as you play, but there isn’t much that is interesting to discover. The most interesting power-ups are also supremely lazy: they’re just weapons that are maximum upgraded that you can use for a limited amount of time. There are also some shields and other items that you can deploy, like turrets and mines.
Not only are the power-ups lacking, the whole system is problematic. First of all, you can’t tell what item you’re going to pick up. Everything is so minimal, that even the items show up as differently colored cubes. Each different color represents what category the item will be—power-up, health, deployable, etc. But there’s no clue as to what the item will be. And since you can’t drop items, you have to use your currently equipped item to pick up the mystery item to see what you might be missing.
Getting health back is annoying, too. Taking a hit can have long-lasting effects, as health seems to be randomly placed into item containers. Since you can only hold one item at a time, you’re forced to use that item if you want any chance of finding health.
Despite the mouthful of a title, It Came from Space and Ate our Brains embraces minimalism in many aspects, most notably the art style. Its blocky protagonists and pink aliens end up portraying the bleak alien invasion as an almost cute, whimsical affair. Though, the dreary darkness isn’t whimsical at all—each level is dark. In fact, they’re so dark it feels like they were so poorly lit to hide just how uninteresting each location is.
If you get tired of the campaign mode, there is also a horde-based survival mode. But that’s really just more of the same, with less distance to walk. You can, of course, go through the campaign and try your hand at harder difficulty levels, but while greater challenge sometimes draws out more fun from a game, it just highlights how dismal It Came from Space can be.
If you’re absolutely hankerin’ for some co-op action, It Came From Space and Ate our Brains might kill a few hours for you and your group. But it’s not very fun alone, and you can do better with a handful of other, similar titles. Still, it’s a competent twin-stick shooter, and there’s definitely fun to be had.
It Came from Space and Ate our Brains is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
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