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A vocal minority has created a convincing narrative that has a lot of us assuming that mobile spinoffs of PC and console games must be vapid, cynical cash grabs. I can’t claim to be above the peanut gallery’s influence here. As I walked into an Alien Blackout demo (coming to the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore on January 24), a chunk of my brain cells were convinced this was going to be nothing more than a mobile port of Alien Isolation.
But you know what they say about assumptions … you damned well should by now. Gawd knows online media has used the ass-out-of-you-and-me cliche intro a couple million times. We should all know this lesson by now. Right? But that’s kind of a funny thing about such lessons: Some of us must relearn them over and over again.
And in the case of Alien Blackout, developers Rival Games and Theory Interactive and publishers FoxNext/D3 Go! are about to remind us that the platform doesn’t dictate the quality of the product. More specifically, mobile doesn’t automatically equal suck for triple-A franchises. And more broadly, don’t just assume what a game is until you’re playing it.
Alien Trap/Double Isolation
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If you Ctrl-C that line into your brain and drop it in public with a tone of smarmy derision, then you’ve missed the point. Because like Night Trap and Double Switch, Alien Blackout is pretty damned clever.
You take the role of Amanda Ripley (star of Alien Isolation, daughter of Ellen Ripley), who has been Newt-ing it up in a makeshift anxiety hovel located in the upper air ducts of the Mendel space station. How she wound up there after the fatal conclusion of Isolation, I can only guess. What matters is that Amanda survives, if cooped up in duct work is considered “living.”
She has access to the station’s security systems, but that doesn’t really mean much since theres an angry xenomorph still skulking-‘n’-murdering around the facilities.
It’s a stale mate: Amanda can control doors and peep through security cameras, but can’t step foot out of her hidey-hole in the air ducts. The alien can roam around like it owns the joint, but it’s frustratingly OCD about killing everything, and knowing Amanda is still alive on the station somewhere is driving the creature up the walls.
To the relief of both Amanda and the Xenomorph, a ship full of human beings from Weyland Yutani docks with the station. They’re on a pit-stop and need supplies to complete their journey, Amanda is in need of someone to transport her the hell out of this nightmare, and the monster is in need of making alive things splatter to death. It’s a situation that all parties could acclimate to.
On my short hands-on session with the iPad version of Alien Blackout, I could switch between two main views: Amanda’s first-person perspective of her depressing squat spot in the air ducts, and the CRT terminal screen that she hacked into the station’s security systems.