X-Com Lite

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Ever since the 1993 release of X-COM: UFO Defense, folks have been wondering where to find a similarly brilliant turn-based strategy game involving aliens. While Generals: Alien Colony isn’t the spiritual successor those discerning gamers have been hoping for, it’s a good — if simplistic — example of the genre.

In Alien Colony, you chose to control either the militaristic humans or the fuchsia-faced Zarudas. These equal and opposite squads duke it out through a challenging campaign mode that doesn’t even pretend to have an understandable plot. In fact, what little dialogue appears is horribly mistranslated and is therefore almost unintelligible.

In each mission, you’ll control several squad members, each of whom bears a different weapon. These include shotguns, chainguns, and laser guns. The range of these weapons is obviously variable, and it’s therefore important to know both when to attack and when your unit is hopelessly out of range. Meanwhile, one of your units acts as a medic. His ability to fight isn’t hampered; he just also happens to carry some first-aid supplies. Needless to say, the survival of your medic is essential. So, of course, it would have been nice to see some further character specialization.

Every action you make in the game uses action points, which are functionally the same as X-COM’s “time units.” If you have at least two of these left at the end of a character’s move, you can place that squad member in a defensive stance, again, just like in X-COM’s battlescape mode. If an enemy should approach a character in a defensive stance, the defensive-minded character will fire, even if it’s not his turn.

This familiar system presents some nice opportunities for tactical play. However, there just isn’t quite enough variety to keep players interested. While each scenario is unique, such as an early mission in which human prisoners of war make an escape attempt, more variety in the actual gameplay is needed. (Functional bases and vehicles would have been a nice start.)

Generals: Alien Colony isn’t so easy on the eyes, but the heads-up display is useful and well designed. The game is played from the turn-based strategy genre’s standard isometic perspective, which is perfectly adequate, despite lacking camera control. The barely there audio hardly deserves comment. A two-measure ditty plays when you start each mission, while the rest of the game is silent.

Generals’ best feature is its Bluetooth multiplay, which isn’t available on the N-Gage version we tested due to the limitations of that device. If you want to challenge a buddy, make sure to download the game to a pair of other Series 60 devices.

Generals: Alien Colony is a good approximation of X-COM’s infantry combat, but it lacks its inspiration’s complexity and variety. We didn’t necessarily need a Geoscape (world-map play) equivalent…just some additional unit variety.