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The Alien franchise has been no stranger to video game adaptations. From 1999's Aliens vs. Predator to the suffocating Alien: Isolation from 2014, the sci-fi series has always found a way to cross over into the gaming world. So when rumors began to surface about a new game in the Alien universe called Alien: Blackout, fans were understandably excited about what it could entail. When it was revealed as a mobile game, there was considerably less buzz surrounding the new entry in the Alien series. No one, it turned out, was asking for an Alien mobile game, and excitement dulled to a few grumbles here and there online.
But that's what we got. Alien: Blackout certainly isn't what fans were expecting, not by a long shot. Instead of gory, tense outings on consoles and PC, the xenomorph action was downsized for a mobile audience and as such made to fit better within the confines of an iOS or Android device. This meant that many of the same design decisions made with games like Alien Isolation were out, all in favor of a set of mobile-friendly mechanics.
Alien: Isolation was the first solidly terrifying Alien-themed game in years. After the catastrophe that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, fans certainly needed something of a palate cleanser. Luckily, Alien: Isolation was there to perform that function nicely. It introduced Amanda Ripley, Ellen Ripley's daughter, and her plight aboard the remote space station Sevastopol. On a reconnaissance mission, Ripley comes face to face with xenomorphs that want nothing more than to rip her apart, and players have to sneak around the station accordingly to avoid certain death. It lent a claustrophobic, classic survival horror feel to the game that had been sorely missing from previous Alien games, and as such, it was a major critical success.Alien: Blackout is something of a continuation, but in only the loosest sense. It takes place following Isolation and before the Aliens film. Players take on the role of Amanda Ripley once more, but this time Blackout is nothing like a survival horror game. It can be likened more to titles like Five Nights at Freddy's, where you have to manipulate a series of cameras aboard a space station that's positively riddled with xenomorphs. When a team from the infamous Weyland-Yutani Corporation shows up and boards the station, Ripley takes it upon herself to guide them throughout the station from a makeshift outpost so they might all eventually be rescued.
Instead of exploring as Ripley, you have to nearly-blindly guide your Weyland-Yutani charges by watching them and issuing commands as you watch from relative safety elsewhere on the ship. Unfortunately, the aliens are always roaming about, and one can take your life at any point. That's why it's so important to be vigilant about everything you do on board. If you aren't careful, you can lose every single member of your team. And when they die, that's it. There's no going back from that. You never know when you're on the cusp of a grisly death as you watch silently from Ripley's outpost, mouth twisted in horror and hoping the same gory end doesn't happen to you, too. Death is only one wrong move away, and there's a massive sense of tension here because of that.
You can have different characters perform different tasks, but while they're doing their jobs, you have to do yours. If you notice an alien may be coming toward them, you've got to alert them so you don't lose them and lose progress. You're also playing on a timer — if it ticks all the way down, it's "blackout" time, and you'll lose power to the ship, meaning it's game over and you'll have to try again. There are a few levels of this, and you'll be an expert when it comes to figuring out where the xenomorph is mingling by the end, but it's still pretty terrifying at first if you're not sure where it's coming from. It does siphon the spirit of Alien in abundance in this way.
It's a completely different atmosphere than Alien: Isolation, but it's at the very least an interesting way to continue the films' legacy. If you're into mobile games and want an analog for Five Nights at Freddy's or something like it that's based on your favorite sci-fi film franchise, you might be interested in dropping a few bucks to pick it up. As a longtime Alien fan, it's jarring to play a game where you aren't directly tasked with hunting down xenomorphs and ensuring they'll never see the light of day again, but that could very well be what some fans are tired of doing — though I can't imagine why. If you'd prefer slower-paced survival horror affairs (much like what the new Resident Evil 2 remake offers), then you'll probably find a lot to love about this mobile title, too.
Otherwise, we're just hoping that this mobile title's success can pave the way for another full-fledged console release like Alien: Isolation, because it's just about time, and we deserve it. Honestly, we deserve a few lifetimes of Alien games after Colonial Marines. Period.