Super Mutant Alien Assault

A game by Cybernate for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2016.
Super Mutant Alien Assault is a sidescrolling arena shooter inspired by Super Crate Box. At the start of the game, alien vessels suddenly appear in Earth’s orbit and lay waste to the entire planet. Only three fleets of ships manage to escape, carrying the last remnants of humanity in cryo-sleep capsules. For some reason, the humans decide that they need to flee to an extremely great distance in order to escape this alien threat, so the fleets are on their way to three different galaxies. Unfortunately, the aliens are in pursuit, leaving the fate of the humans up to their ships’ defense droids.

You take on the role of one such droid, or a pair of them in local 2P co-op. Players may select between two robot types at the start of the game, with two additional designs that must be unlocked, although each of the droids plays in the same fashion. The defense droids don’t come equipped with any weapons from the start and instead must rely on random pickups from weapon-dispensing machines to collect their armaments.

The entirety of the game is built upon some level of randomness, with random single-screen level layouts – chosen from a limited number of preconfigured rooms – as well as random weapon drops, enemies, and level objectives, each of which is slowly unlocked as the player progresses through the campaign.

The early selection of weapons includes the standard shooter array: shotguns, machine guns, dual submachine guns (which shoot in 2 directions), sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and grenade launchers. All of these have different reload speeds and limited ammo, with an alarm that sounds when they are nearly depleted. The player can also pick up a sidearm with infinite ammo, allowing him to fall back on it when his main weapon runs out. Weapon-dispensing units recharge over time, allowing the player to collect a new random weapon, even if his original still has ammo.

As the game unfolds, new weapon types are unlocked, some of which are pretty unusual. Among these is a pogo stick gun that lets you strike enemies from above (most weapons only fire to the left or right). You can also land on an enemy’s head to auto-trigger the pogo-splosion, blasting the baddie with a big purple explosion and sending yourself high into the air, which means you can also use the weapon to reach higher platforms. Another odd weapon is the chakram, which is a sidearm-class weapon that the player can hurl at enemies, striking up to three targets, after which the player must use telekinesis to draw the chakram back to him.

Explosive weapons are distributed in the same fashion, with grenades being offered by default. The player can toss a grenade and wait for it to explode, or hold the button to “cook” the grenade to hit closer targets. The player later unlocks triggered explosives, as well as grenades that spew several smaller explosives when detonated. Grenades and other explosive weapons are extremely dangerous – especially given the small enclosed environments – as the player is affected by splash damage. This goes double in 2P co-op.

The player beings the game with a 5-heart health meter, which can be reduced in half-heart increments, and getting killed means a return trip to the title screen. Health is not restored between levels – or between galaxies – and restoratives are very rare, so players must be diligent about avoiding contact with enemies and their projectiles. Occasionally, a health-dispensing machine will appear in a level. These restore a half heart to the player’s life bar each time they are used, and they are only good for four charges.

Crates are randomly dispensed in some levels, and occasionally these have a half heart or full heart within, but often they have items which grant special attacks and movement abilities. Movement abilities include a double jump, an air-dash, and a dodge roll. Special attacks allow players to wipe out a large number of enemies, but these attacks draw from a separate meter that must be recharged by collecting little green bits that are occasionally dropped by killed enemies.

There are several different kinds of level objectives, and all of them become available early in the game. At first, only Survive is available, which simply tasks the player with wiping out several waves of enemies. In the Pressure levels, the player must kill enemies while occasionally dealing with overcharged valves. This requires the player to walk to the valve’s location and discharge it, and failing to reach it in time causes an explosion that harms the droid.

In Hyperdrive levels, the player must carry fuel from a dispenser to a drop point, after which the ship speeds up for several seconds, which also causes time to slow down. Emerging from hyperdrive also causes several enemies to mutate into stronger variants. Finally, there are Thruster levels, which operate similarly to Hyperdrive in that you need to carry an object through the level, but these orbs prevent the player from firing. The player can drop the orb to return fire on the enemy, but he has to be careful because the orb can be shot and destroyed, or it may roll into an enemy and be destroyed. On the other hand, it’s also possible for the player to drop it and let it roll to its intended target.

The different level objectives add some variety to the overall experience, and a few elements mix up gameplay, such as radiation waves that can mutate enemies into tougher versions of their former selves, with the toughest foes able to fire projectiles or drop radioactive material of their own, further adding to your need for mutant management.

Despite these variations and the random elements, however, the basic minute-to-minute gameplay remains largely unchanged throughout the experience. In addition, there aren’t many different room configurations, so the player will be repeating a number of scenarios again and again.

In total, the game consists of three galaxies with three levels and one boss encounter each, for a total of 12 levels. The game can be completed in one or two sessions, although players will continue to unlock new enemy types, weapon types, perks, and starting loadouts by continuing to complete levels.

Once the player reaches the second galaxy, he may begin a new session from there, and the same is true of the third, although the player is only able to unlock the next difficulty setting by completing all 12 levels in a single run. Higher difficulty modes provide the player with less health, fewer restoratives, tougher level objectives – such as faster overcharge for valves and more fuel pods required for hyperdrive – as well as more enemies and tougher bosses.

Boss battles can be tough, featuring mobile enemies that take a ton of hits before being destroyed, and the randomness of weapon and explosive drops may make you ill-equipped for certain situations. This does make you think on your feet, but also means that you may fail a fight because you were underequipped, or defeat the boss easily because you got lucky and grabbed a minigun pickup that let you shred the boss and its supporting enemies from a distance.

Super Mutant Alien Assault was developed by Cybernate, a studio headed by Chris Suffern and based in Sydney, Australia. Art for the game was created by Fabian Jastremski. This was the studio’s first commercial release, which hit Steam Early Access in 2015, with the final version was released in 2016. The game is an updated and expanded version of Chris’ Flash-based Mutant Alien Assault, which was released in 2012.

The game was published by Australia-based Surprise Attack Games, which also published Teslagrad, Crawl, Screencheat, and Hacknet.