Game Info:

HEIANKYO ALIEN / 平安京エイリアン 
Developed By: Mindware Co., Ltd.
Published By: Mindware Co., Ltd.
Released: October 13, 2017
Available On: Windows
Genre: Action, Maze, Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: 1 to 2 players
Price: $13.99

Thank you Mindware Co.,Ltd. for sending us this game to review.

A long time ago, if someone wanted to play video games, one would have to walk to a place such as an arcade, a laundromat, or some other facility like a pizza shop. People didn’t have the luxury of a massive library of genres right at their fingertips and play with or against people across the world in seconds. Consoles back then were also mostly seen as a luxury item that belonged to the rich and wealthy, so poor people were typically at the mercy of arcade machines and a fistful of quarters if they wanted to get their game on. Heiankyo Alien was originally released in Japan in 1979 as a computer game by the University of Tokyo’s Theoretical Science Group, and then as an arcade cabinet in 1980. Heiankyo Alien managed to be a fairly influential game of the genre, but is fairly obscure to international audiences.

HEIANKYO ALIEN manages to both be a remake and a remaster, as it includes two games: the original “Heiankyo Alien” and the arranged version “Heiankyo Alien 3671.” Both games have a simple premise: run around a maze while avoiding aliens. Dig holes around the area to trap aliens in them and then fill the holes to eliminate the aliens. It feels similar to other maze games such as Pac-Man and Bomberman, but still has many differences to make it feel unique. In 3671, there are a wider variety of options for the player such as power-ups that can help you dig faster, run faster and multipliers that increase your score. Control options include both gamepad and keyboard, and both are responsive, smooth, and easy to use. 


Strong Points: A large amount of settings that can be changed to your liking; The original game is included with this package.
Weak Points: The original game is basically there for novelty purposes; No high score tracking or leaderboards.
Moral Warnings: Killing aliens; Your character turns into an angel when you die.

Different from the original, 3671 also lets you score points if you make an outline with the boxes by running alongside them. Since 3671 puts more of an emphasis on scoring, the game is played in 5 minute increments with infinite lives. The aliens move in an erratic manner, but there are methods to influence the paths they take. Digging holes in certain spots can potentially move them where you want them, and there is candy you can pick up that attracts the aliens. You can use these strategies to set up a trap. Be wary, as even if an alien is trapped they can be freed after five instances of alien cries or about 8 seconds. This does apply when you are in the process of burying them too. Alien allies can instantly free their brothers and sisters if they happen to bump into a trapped alien. As the levels increase, more aliens appear on the screen, but your digging/burying and movement become faster too, to give an edge against the increasing horde.

3671 is a very colorful and bombastic game. There are lots of effects going on such as blur effects from the character and the enemies, particle effects that pop out when the levels increase, everything changing color as the time ticks down, and lots of words being displayed on the screen. The psychedelic visuals, combined with the groovy music and clear sound effects, make the game feel like a constant party. As the levels increase and more and more aliens are displayed on the screen, all of this can be pretty overwhelming and it can be very easy to lose yourself in the madness. Fortunately, there are option settings that let you tweak all of these effects to your liking; you can even turn them all off if you choose to do so.

In the options menu, not only can particle effects be adjusted, game settings can be adjusted as well, such as what level you begin the game on, the layout of the maze, the position of where you character spawns, and an interesting setting called Glitch Encore Alien. This setting doesn't seem like much at first, but is actually a key component to obtaining a very large score. The setting is tied to the mechanic of the alien eating candy, and if you happen to build a hole on an alien eating candy, it will create a special type of hole that can amass a ton of points.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 68%
Gameplay - 11/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 93%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

I did come across some issues with 3671. For a game that makes an emphasis on getting as big of a high score as possible, it doesn’t keep track of high scores at all. If one wants to save their high score, they would have to take a screenshot once the game is over. It’s also very strange that when 3671 starts, it lets you either open up the program or the manual in a PDF file. Only one of these options can run at once so unfortunately you cannot have both running at the same time.

The original Heiankyo Alien game, while it is nice that it is included, is definitely a product of its time, and is pretty hard to play today. Your character moves much slower than in 3671 and the aliens move a bit faster. There are no power-ups for you to use, the aliens can get out of the holes faster, and your character only has three to five lives. The controls feel very stiff and digging/burying is excruciatingly slow. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the co-op function to work either, but even if I did, the game was originally meant to be played with the players facing each other. In a way, the inclusion of the original feels more like a novelty than for someone to actually enjoy. It reminds me of what Vanillaware did for Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, and even though (in both cases) the original pales in comparison to the remake, it’s always nice to include things like that to observe a part of video game history.

In terms of moral issues and warnings, there are a few. The concept of a premature burial is your only way of defense against the aliens, and when your character touches a competent alien, the alien proceeds to eat the player and they turn into an angel and float away. The 8-bit style graphics make it impossible to show anything graphic, but the implications of the whole thing is pretty gruesome (or maybe I just think too much about silly things such as this).

HEIANKYO ALIEN can be a good time for the right person, but it’s not meant for everyone. People who love arcade style games, or grew up during the times where arcades were plentiful, will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of this package, but the style of the game may have little appeal to a newer generation. It does have some potentially addicting properties, but for me, without leaderboards or score tracking, I feel I got everything I wanted from the few hours I played it. In the menu I noticed some grayed out modes such as "Idol Mode" and "Mod Play," even though almost a year has passed since the release, so I’m not sure if they will ever be implemented. I would potentially like to see HEIYANKO ALIEN released for the Switch in the future, as the quick play nature of the game really complements a portable system.

-Cinque Pierre