sbym's Area 51 (PlayStation) review

Sure, it's the sequel to Areas 1 through 50, but this murder simu

Ah, Area 51... The light-gun shooter (Well of course it's a shooter, what else would a light-gun game be?) that, despite it being almost entirely devoid of any depth when it comes to gameplay, I've played literally hundreds of times in various pizza joints and movie theaters for well over a decade.

I'm unsure as to whether or not Area 51's very short length is a positive or a negative. On one hand, it provides a quick stroll down memory lane. Granted, that is of course if memory lane is a gauntlet of murderous extraterrestrials and jumpsuit-clad zombies. On the other, taken on its own merits, Area 51 really is quite mediocre, even when compared to the slim pickings of its genre.

Set in the modern-Americana mythos-shrouded Government base of the game's namesake, Area 51 throws you headlong into an ensuing firefight between an impending intergalactic threat and your "elite" squad, known as S.T.A.A.R. (not to be confused with S.T.A.R.S. of Resident Evil fame). Why the sarcastic tone concerning the "eliteness" of the S.T.A.A.R. team? Because even a complete moron would consider these gun-toting mouth-breathers to be a group of ADD poster children. Expect no help, but rather hindrance, from this "crack" team of idiots. Here & there one of them will slowly jog across the screen to make it seem as if they are a part of the ensuing carnage taking place, only to stop at really inopportune times to make sure you accidentally (or in some cases, purposefully) shoot them, which costs you one of your life points.

Oddly enough this makes your own team the most powerful and frightening enemy in the entire game. What should be your adversaries, zombies and the aliens themselves, don't stand a chance against anyone who has ever played a light-gun game before. Oh sure, there are a lot of them. And yes, to their credit they sure as Hell try, coming from all angles and making surprise up-close melee attacks. But they really aren't all that good at it to be honest. I mean, c'mon... They are everywhere: throwing barrels, firing pistols, shooting little light-things, driving forklifts, and at times getting right up in your face and throwing a punch. Yet, this is all for nothing. Since if you happen to have functioning eyes, a finger, and the reflexes of a catfish, you can gun down everything on screen within a matter of seconds. Y'know, I almost feel sorry for the enemies in this game. You'd think they'd try just a little bit harder if they were trying to get anywhere with this whole invasion thing. But alas, you and your merry band of numbskulls are almost completely ensured victory over E.T.'s older brothers, that is of course if you don't end the game by shooting your own team members in the face too many times.

Oh well, at least they're good for a few laughs. It's pretty funny to see all of the enemies in the game explode in the exact same way each time one of them dies. And yes, I do mean explode. Even when using the default pistol rounds (ammo's infinite, by the way), and on the beginning foes who go down in a single shot, one bullet will cause them to explode as if you'd made them swallow a grenade. They all make the same noise when they die too, which oddly enough never really got all that annoying, chalk that up to the game's length I suppose. Area 51 was a fairly impressive looking game when it was first released in the arcade back in the mid-nineties, and though its animations are exceptionally redundant, it doesn't necessarily look all that bad now. This is mainly due to its over-all simple approach to the visuals. The entire game is basically a series of cutscenes, it moves along on a set track as is the case in most light-gun titles, and stops (except when in a vehicle) during a frame, at which point the previously mentioned jumpsuit zombies and aliens come out to be slaughtered. In certain screens, should you shoot the right things (say, windows far off in the background or crates) you'll be rewarded with more powerful varieties of ammo with which to vanquish the space-faring fiends. The vehicle segment mentioned before is pretty much the best part of the entire game, as your S.T.A.A.R. pal floors it across the site, other jeeps race up along side you and enemies begin unloading on you all while explosions are going off. Though really easy, this chase scene was well scripted and executed.

As nice as that part may be, much like the rest of Area 51 it's over quite soon. Unless you have absolutely horrible aim, even a novice gamer should be able to breeze through without trouble. If you're somehow new to light-guns expect at most one or two deaths, and that's if you're a slow learner. Even the final "boss," a flying saucer, is taken down with your pistol. No, seriously. You shoot down a friggin' flying friggin' saucer with a damn hand-cannon. Wow. Just, wow... No need for a walkthrough here folks, the only advice you need are these two handy tips: 1. Fire off-screen to reload, and 2. Don't shoot other humans.

Should you find this title buried under the rest of the bargain bin at your local gamery (and only if it is with its light-gun), you could do worse considering whatever its price most likely is these days. That said, if you go into this title with your expectations set to "meh," you may get your money's worth. Otherwise, just wait until you're in an arcade. It will more than likely have an Area 51 cabinet, just throw in a single quarter and experience everything this title has to offer in a matter of minutes.

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