It's Not About The Aliens
We've got a real gem here, folks. A narrative-based art game with a gorgeous style and heart to match, Ian Burnett's It's Not About The Aliens (also available on GameJolt) teaches browser games can be so much more than cheap, fun distractions. What appears to be merely a platform game with a good physics system gradually unfolds into an emotionally resonant tale of lost love and somber yearning for better days. You control with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and you can shoot your little pistol with either a click or with the [CTRL] key. Aliens block your path, but you can't die. After all, it's not about the aliens. It's about the people you're longing for, and the ordeals you suffer through to save them.
Mr. Burnett has created a fascinating new retro art style with the Unity engine, somehow layering simple shades of yellow and black pixels into something that appears three-dimensional and deep. As mentioned, the physics are spectacular and very fun to mess with, although it can make the controls feel a bit slippery at times. But perhaps that's part of the point. Every missed jump costs you time and energy, each frustrating miscalculation mirrors your character's urgent need to find their beloved before all is lost. It's fantastically engrossing storytelling, all performed with minimalist flair more evocative than many triple-A console games could ever dream to be. If only the late, great Roger Ebert were still with us and complaining how games can't be art. We could sit him down in front of It's Not About The Aliens and prove him wrong once and for all.
"gem" ? "fantastic" ? I had to speed hack the beginning so I just don't hold the right key a long time reading things we already saw in many games, and I got stuck many times, playing just a platformer that is as basic as possible. Without any sarcasm, it's like if this review was posted the 1st of april.
I find it modestly engaging so far, but have had to stop because I can't find any way out of the little chamber at the start of screen... 3 or 4.
Creator here: Sorry to hear you got stuck - I'll check out that bug later today and see if I can fix it.
I think the reviewer exaggerated a bit (comparing it to AAA games? Really?), and I didn't figure out the grenade controls until after I'd finished the game, but it's a fun little game.
How do I use the grenades?
Well, I figured out the grenades, but now I'm stuck due to a save & restore issue.
I was in the building with a room where boxes fall from the ceiling. I made it up into the next room, which sealed off the openings from the previous room. Somehow the display got messed up (the graphics were shifted up and to the left from where they should have been), so I saved and reloaded.
When I continued, I was back in the room where boxes fall from the ceiling, but no boxes were falling and the openings to the next room were closed, so I can't progress.
Frustrated and disappointed.
First of all, one of the better short web games I've played. I might get kind of harsh on it, but that's only because the creator has a lot of potential, and thus room for improvement.
I really enjoyed the gameplay and art style for the most part, even the story was a pretty nice character-development (which managed to keep me interested, which is not something I can say about many webgames' stories). I've only played one other game where the gameplay revolved around the characters invincibility (IndestructoTank) and it seems like this style should be explored more often, because they are both fun as all get out.
On the downside, ignoring my ongoing campaign against unity (I'll assume it's the only platform the dev has access to), the gameplay was extremely floaty--some momentum to the character isn't all bad, but when you have an unforgiving waterfall that sends you back to the first of the section and the character's glide distance is more than the length of a fair amount of the platforms, that's just annoying. I tended to find myself stuck on walls a lot, which is only mildly annoying, but also typical of unity. Also in the vein of gameplay, some instructions would be nice (I mashed my entire keyboard trying to use grenades, and still haven't figured it out).
As for the art, while I do like the minimalist style, the color is visually displeasing; neon yellow is not a color I would ever describe as beautiful or restful on the eyes, or anything other than mildly headache-inducing. If bright colors are necessary, I recommend using a cooler (more blue value) palate
And finally, although the story was well told for the most part, the final cutscene came off as a "THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS:" type moment that really took me out of it; though the dialogue was a good balance to the main character's monologue. My suggestion for a quick fix would be to leave out some of the background from Arlene's monologue, then add in a section of play that utilizes both characters where the current dialogue is a little less one-track and includes references to the missing information/fills in the gaps.
For those that need a score 6/10, but has the potential to be a 9/10, or a 10 if it was expanded into a full-length game (one that took hours of play-time rather than minutes).
I think this review was a little over the top, and the result was disappointment. When someone speaks that highly of a game, the expectation bar gets set so high that it cannot possibly be met. AAA games? Wow. I was expecting GTA 5 and Fallout, Bioshock, and Silent Hill all rolled into one fantastic Unity masterpiece!
Instead I got...well...a game. And it isn't a bad little game; it kept me entertained for about 30 minutes, which for a story telling game, and a platformer, isn't bad. I mean, I hate platformers. I avoid them at all costs. But this review, MAN, I HAD to try this one! I mean, WOW! This is going to be the most epic platformer EVER, and it's going to teach me all about life and stuff! WOOT! Well, not really.
The 'amazing' physics were sloppy and weird, making the difficulty level and therefore the frustration level far too high, the graphics were nothing cutting edge or even particularly special, and then we come to the story. The ending left me feeling... let down. Just, disappointed, again.
So much so that I didn't comment immediately, out of fear that my comment would be too negative. But two hours after playing I was still thinking about how disappointed I was. Let down.
That being said, I believe the original reviewer of this game needs to be reigned in a little. This is not a bad game, but with expectations set that high, it ends up feeling like a failure, when it was in fact a good effort.
I really enjoyed the game. One complaint though: there needs to be an in-game explanation on what the controls are.
I couldn't figure out how to use the gun when I first got it, and I didn't use the grenades at all.
For other readers, the relevant keys are ctrl and alt.
Add me to the list of the disappointed - platforming was sloppy and difficult to control (I'm stuck on the edge of a box, but I can't jump?), the story was slow and dragging, and there were no real challenges. I can't die, so if I get bounced around for a while who cares? Getting hit was frustrating, not in the "I need to get this stage right" way but in the "this narrative is dragging too much as it is, and now these monsters are making it even harder".
And the the ending...
I assumed that someone the girlfriend would have become one of the monsters, as was hinted at early on, or that the protagonist had actually disappeared, and she was the one being sought - some kind of twist that went beyond "let's value the time we have and be in love!"
I'm a huge platform fan, but this one is not a winner in my book.
Oh, and the grenades are pointless. I threw two trying to figure out how to use them, then never used them again.
There is a bug at what I assume is the end of the game where
The blue lady zooms way to the right and ends up in the middle of space and the controls do nothing
I had high hopes. I think something I learned from this is that if you take control away from a player, it's very difficult to do so in a way that increases their enjoyment. In this game, when control was taken away
(like when you hit a mine while jetpacking and then just spend a few minutes watching your character bounce around the screen until they randomly find a ledge where they can stand back up)
it wasn't much fun. IT's a shame though because I thought the story and art were really good. Anyways, good attempt!
What is the purpose of the grenades besides taking up a huge portion of the screen to tell you how many you have? And how do you use them?
Seriously? Alt and Ctrl at the same time to throw a grenade? Every time I tried to move and throw a grenade at the same time I turned my screen sideways. Ctrl+Alt is part of so many commands, it is probably NEVER a good idea to have the keys be pressed together in a game.
I found a different control for the grenades. Right click and ctrl. But it brings up the right click menu.
Clicking the tutorial button gives you the controls. Because that makes perfect sense to do, have the controls that are necessary to beat the game completely missable.
It also gives you an outright cheat, one which is completely undesigned for.
It gives you the jetpack early. And it lets you actually cross the bridge that breaks at the beginning. Where you find nothing. Except for this strange room along the path of nothing. You can also head left from the start, and fall through what looks like the ground.
Then there's a plothole.
"Good thing that we can't die or this giant fall would really hurt."
Then right before the ending:
"All these blasters singing my skin hurt."
Which is it? Immune to pain or not?
I was expecting it to be a sign that the protagonist actually WAS going to disappear. But then it just gets completely dropped.
Normally when a review tells me a game is really good, it is. But, man, not with this one. I couldn't even get past the second level. I was stuck in between a door and "broken" door that wouldn't move for me. The mechanics of the game were awful, especially when it came to jumping platforms, once I figured out how to jump, that is. WASD controls worked for left and right movement, but not for jumping; yet the arrow keys did allow jumping. ??? And the words for the story were difficult to read in some sequences because I was falling so fast. Such a disappointment :(
I was expecting so much more out of this, but it just was one of those try-to-be-artsy-and-philosophical-with-retro-graphics games with not much story development. Ending was really quite disappointing; for all the time I spent playing it, it was way too normal and a big let down.
Controls are really, really hard to use. Too floaty, and momentum feels so wrong when you're in the air. You must have him going at an exponentially increasing velocity, because it's slow and fast at the wrong times. Plus, when you're buffeted around by 10 different mines, with no control over your character, it becomes a pinball machine without flippers - and that's no fun at all. Plus, I get stuck in weird places, like on the sides of the walls, way too often. Something's weird with the box colliders. Controls and game mechanisms way too frustrating to enjoy it; I only stuck through it to see the ending, which I wasn't very happy about.
Sorry developer, but I hope your future games are more polished in the controls area. Are you using the new Unity 2D toolkit?
Telling us we can duck would have been intelligent the first time we needed it. I restarted so I could read the controls.
Completed on my 2nd try.
1st try I got stuck where you 1st needed to crouch & I had no clue.
You can skip the gun by going through the lower passage with the aliens and using one of their shots to get through the grate that leads back to the surface. After that, you're stuck.
Just needs a level design tweak, or you could change the aliens' shots to not destroy those grates.
Surprised at the extremely negative opinions here. I thought it was lovely - an engaging story, a cool visual style with some neat little puzzley additions to the platforming game play.
If I had to criticise, a few times I found myself falling too fast (or being exploded around by mines too fast) to read the sentences of the story. Then they'd fade away and I'd have missed a sentence.
The controls were a bit floaty, but overall it has pretty easy to control movement, and you can stop yourself quickly on a platform by ducking (pressing down).
Surely when you see a low tunnel in a platforming game the first thought is to duck and crawl?