Admittedly, we never dug the original Alien Hominid. First released on consoles in 2004, it had its fanbase, sure, but the Newgrounds art style, slack animation response, and aggravating rather than enjoyable difficulty curve just turned us off.
Enter Alien Hominid: Invasion, a 2023 sequel that blasted out of nowhere, ready to appeal to existing fans, wherever they may be, and hopefully tractor beam in some new ones. And, the change in direction and the overall execution of this sequel is pleasantly surprising. It no longer follows the typical run-and-gun format of the original, but instead goes for a multi-path map crawl, where stages act like giant arenas, and within those stages you’re tasked with fulfilling a series of mini-missions dished out at random. A roguelite that scales in difficulty by bombarding with increasingly strong, more dangerous enemy varieties, it remains cleverly controlled even when the heat is turned up to melting. There are adjustable difficulty settings and options to keep weaponry after a death, and up to four players can get involved for a very enjoyable grand-melee, helping each other out as you decimate the surroundings. On defaults its not overly difficult to get to grips with, and, once you have a handle on your alien’s myriad skills and the ability to apply a bit of reflex, the action is altogether less daunting. Now, you can double jump, fire downward for a height boost, invincible break roll on the ground or in the air, dig underground to hide from imminent danger, and hop onto the shoulders of friends and foes. You also gain lots of new weaponry and enhancements that can be applied between stages, and even unlock aesthetic augmentations for your little alien menace.
Graphically, it recalls some of that Newgrounds art style of the original (also now available on Switch in high-def form), but with an enormous overhaul. In full HD, the graphics are nicely defined, well-animated, and uniquely styled. The action is fraught, with missions popping up that involve, for example, collecting and depositing a certain number of newspapers, or dispatching six purple enemies. To fulfil missions, you follow arrows directing you to a specific area, but it’s up to you to use each stage’s unique apparatus as you please. All the while, you’re assailed by a monstrous number of enemies running, flying, and firing recklessly in your direction, creating a total barnyard maelstrom of lasers and explosions. All the while, you hop, flip, and demolish, making your way from one waypoint to the next, gunning above and gunning below, head bouncing, weaving, and rolling through the carnage. It’s a taut, pressure-cooker tussle with you at the centre, regularly leaping out of the point of convergence for a moment to breathe, before inviting it to follow you in a sort of dance of destruction.
Alien Hominid Invasion’s setup won’t appeal to everyone. We were disappointed to find the mission objectives recycle far too often, and their random nature seems to rob the stages of any real individuality. But in terms of its handling, execution, and additions, Invasion feels much superior to the original. And, while ultimately repetitive, its chaos is fun for brief single and multiplayer arrangements, and we enjoyed dipping in for a quick bout of raucousness.