Hide and seek with xenomorphs.
A mobile game in the style of Five Nights at Freddy’s probably isn’t what most people had in mind when excitement for a new Alien game started to stir. As a consolation, Alien: Blackout packs decent thrills for a quick playthrough, and its retro-future computer display interface and sound effects fit the tone and atmosphere of the universe perfectly.
Calling Alien: Blackout a survival-horror game would be a gross exaggeration. It’s really more of an objective-based, hide-and-seek puzzle game with a sprinkle of scary tension and stress to push you as you direct your ship’s crew to avoid a rampaging xenomorph using a computer terminal that displays them and their pursuer as dots. The voice acting is really well done, especially for main character Amanda Ripley (the daughter of Ellen who also starred in 2014’s Alien: Isolation), and there’s quite a lot more story than you’d expect out of a mobile game, even if it is pretty by-the-numbers without any significant hooks or twists. You should expect your muscles to tense up when the alien is spotted or you need a crew member to hurry up and hide, but it’s far from the anxiety-riddled paranoia of other actual survival-horror games.
During each of the seven missions you have to make crucial decisions about how to spend your limited supply of power to do things like turn on motion trackers to spot the alien’s movements, close doors to shut off its access, or close vent hatches so it can’t snack on you before your crew escapes. At one point I literally had to make a split-second decision between one of two doors to close as the alien reached the end of a hall with a forked path. Whichever door I left open, one crew member or another was all but guaranteed death. Sure enough, that’s what happened.
Visually, Alien Blackout looks excellent. Crew member character models are a bit stiff in their animations, but the alien is just as creepy and terrifying as you’d hope, especially if it attacks you in the vent and gets in your face. The film grain effect on camera feeds feels appropriately retro and the map view, while basic, has all the information you need to quickly tap doors, turn on sensors, and more.
The alien’s AI isn’t the best and you can typically keep it distracted in a single room.
What you’ll quickly notice, though, is that the alien’s AI isn’t the best and you can typically keep it distracted in a single room by opening and closing the same door over and over, causing it to run back and forth as you repeatedly give the beast false hope and then crush it. And, once you reach the later levels there’s no reason not to use some of your crew as bait, aside from some screams from the high-quality voice actors. You only need one to survive for a mission to count as a success, so it feels like a half-baked and exploitable victory condition.
Thankfully, everything flows well. Since the Alien can move lightning fast and enter vents to tunnel around the ship, completely invisibly, the door trick doesn’t work forever. If the Alien closes in on your location you have to cut power and cause the titular blackout to shut all vent access until it leaves, but the vents re-open automatically so there isn’t much tension. It’s not that tough, and you can likely burn through the entire thing in under two hours.
Once you do, there’s not much reason to come back for another run. The maps do a good job of introducing some interesting puzzles in terms of trying to manage crew members and avoid the alien’s path, but that doesn’t translate to being interesting beyond just a single playthrough due to how static and repetitive the objectives are. Once you know what you’re doing they’re a breeze to zip through, and there doesn’t seem to be any scoring system built in beyond XP from the Google Play Games overlay. But at least it’s honest: Alien: Blackout is a $5 game without a single microtransaction in sight, and that’s a welcome rarity on today’s app stores.