Hominid, the upcoming sidescroller for the GameCube and Playstation 2,
is the type of game you'd like to see succeed on general principle.
First launched on newgrounds.com in 2002, the flash-based game's frantic
2-D action, graffiti-like artwork and cuddly, ultra-violent hero
combined forces to single-handedly crush office productivity as we know
it. With 6 million downloads, creators Tom Fulp -- also founder of
newgrounds -- and artist Dan Paladin knew they had a hit on their hands.
What's amazing is that this great little idea with a solid buzz behind
it got offered a platform deal.
Armchair Empire recently had an opportunity to view a live demo of the new title in New York. And, it looks like the designers were able to stay true to the games addictive roots and add plenty of new levels, bells and whistles.
new platform version of the game includes 25 levels, complete with a new
array of bosses and new weapons upgrades, still handed out by your
trusty neighborhood "fat kid."
The entire game was hand drawn by Paladin, and although the first
couple of levels may look familiar to fans of the flash version, he has
expanded his horizons beyond the American cityscape to try his hand at
new levels in snowy Russia and Nevada's Area 51.
The game begins as the unsuspecting little yellow alien gets
shot down by the FBI and crash lands directly in front of their
headquarters. He immediately sets out to repair his crippled spaceship,
fighting off an endless barrage of FBI agents, robots and pretty much
everything else in his path.
Fortunately for him, he's up to the task. The little guy is agile, but you're constantly dodging about nine different bullets, making his array of moves--basically, run, jump, shoot, roll and throw grenades--both old-school simple and old-school thumb blistering. The alien can also step out of
the fray for a few seconds at a
time, by burrowing underground and seizing
unsuspecting enemies from
below. Other variations on the standard moves include jumping onto
enemies' shoulders and riding them around before biting their heads off,
and commandeering the cars and other vehicles scattered throughout the
game for a quick ride.
power-ups, handed out by human "fat-kids" hanging out at
locations throughout the game, are available for your standard laser
pistol: fire shot, ice ray, photon burst, acid blast, laser pulse,
spread shot and mega cannon. All pretty self-explanatory. Holding down
the fire button for a couple of seconds also unleashes a power shot,
and, by firing straight down after a jump, the gun can slow your
One of the game's coolest features is its co-op mode. At any point in the game, plugging in an extra controller allows a friend to join in the action. Fast paced games are always more fun to play with friends, and in this title, the pop-in, pop-out convenience looks like it could really help when the action gets particularly hairy. In two player mode, each player can also select one of three difficulty levels--on the easiest difficulty level, players do more damage per shot; on the hardest level, they do less.
title also features several different mini-games. On display for this
preview was a "PDA" game, a simple, black and white game that
has you lead a stick man through 200 vertical mazes.
It looks like something that could have been on the Gameboy in
1990, but it's really, really easy to get sucked in.
Alien Hominid is the type of game that would have quickly bankrupted
every 12-year old living within biking distance of an arcade in 1983. It
goes to show that 2-D shoot-em-ups are still a lot of fun, and its
frantic pace and funky graphics look like they have the potential to
bring the genre to a new generation of fans.
Hominid will be one of the first titles launched by O~3 Entertainment, a
new publishing and distribution company launched by former Capcom
executives Bill Gardner, Chris Jelinek and Hanako Watanabe. In a
nutshell, the company has said that its goal is to cultivate, publish
and distribute the sort of independent titles that typically fall below
the industry's radar, and Alien Hominid looks like a great place to
start. Keeping pace with ever-improving technology has led to larger and
larger production budgets and publishing executives that are less and
less willing to take risks with anything that's not a sure bet.
For an industry that's now awash with mediocre movie spin-offs
and passable sequels, it's great to see a new publisher with the clout
of three veteran executives set its sights specifically on innovation.
Here's to hoping they can pull it off.
- M. Enis
(October 4, 2004)