Why do people ever go into space? It never ends well, what with all the carnivorous aliens hungering for human flesh to feast on. It’s a well-known fact that, the second you get out of Earth orbit, you might as well roll in butter and give yourself a light sprinkling of salt. It saves time later and maybe you can at least clog up the alien equivalent of an artery. In Space Beast Terror Fright the worst has, predictably, happened again, and you get to go into a ship overrun with vicious aliens to retrieve the data, blow the power supply and maybe escape with your life. But more likely get eaten.
Space Beast Terror Fright is a procedurally-generated death maze that just hit Early Access, and it will kill you. As a space marine entering an infested ship, there’s really not much else to do but give it your best until the inevitable happens, but with a bit of luck you might not die instantly. Each ship is a randomly-generated maze of dark corridors lit only by the glow of emergency lighting, a few computer consoles, and your headlight. The layout is Wolfenstein-style flat surfaces with corridors that intersect at 90 degree angles, with frequent wider areas and rooms to keep things interesting. You start in a well-lit airlock but the second the door to the ship’s interior opens you know it’s not going to go well. Nothing that dark and industrial has a surprise party with festive balloons and ice cream waiting at the end.
Still, you’re a marine and have a gun, and somebody’s got to clear this place out, so despite the ship having just enough light to let you know just how screwed you are it’s time to move, stepping carefully and jumping at every sound. The aliens are fast and relentless but they’re not even close to bulletproof, and thankfully you’ll even get a little help from reactivating the ship’s defenses. Computer terminals come in two varieties, turret and data core, and each can help you survive a bit longer. Turrets auto-fire on any alien they detect, although you need to be careful of friendly fire, and the data cores upgrade your abilities. Collecting all the cores is also necessary to access the control panels to blow the ship’s generator, but the real reward is the upgrades they bring.
You initially start with a gun, a light, no map, a computer to interface with the terminals, and a battery of limited duration. The data cores upgrade one of these skills at random, with several levels of progress available. The gun gets an increased ammo count with more powerful bullets, the radar fills in with a map and objectives, the light is supplemented by an optional infrared view that gets stronger and clearer with each upgrade, and the pc can download data and activate sentries faster. That last one is particularly crucial because if you move too far from a terminal during activation you’ll need to start downloading all over again. While the initial download time is only ten seconds, that’s just shy of forever when you’re waiting for the next alien to appear.
At the moment, however, Space Beast Terror Fright only has one enemy type, and its AI has a single instruction of “run straight forward and attack!” They also only spawn from breaches in the corridor, although despite the simplicity of both the enemy type and its AI they’re still highly effective at making you dead. That’s because you have no health, no armor, and no ability to soak up hits. No matter how powerful you get, that one alien attack is more than enough kill you instantly, ending your space marine career as a pile of wobbly giblets strewn across the spaceship’s floor, walls, and probably the ceiling too.
The immediacy of death is, oddly enough, why Space Beast Terror Fright isn’t actually scary. It’s a lot of fun, no question, even with so much of the game still to be developed, but when you know the odds of completing a mission are incredibly low (not impossible, I’ve completed a couple) then the game becomes a matter of hanging on as long as possible rather than survival. It’s dark and atmospheric, but I’ve got enough ambient light to work with plus an effective flashlight, and the machine gun packs a very nice punch. The aliens look scary but their real threat is speed and numbers, both of which can be handled with a bit of experience. Power up the armor a few times, get a few sentry guns active, and remember that even a single hit is instant death and you’ll do ok. That hit is coming, of course, but seeing as there’s no way to avoid it the game becomes one of endurance rather than fear.
As rogue-like FPSes go, though, Space Beast Terror Fright is a good endurance run with a lot of potential to become great. The atmosphere is fantastic, perfectly recreating another xenomorph-hunting series while carefully skirting copyright infringement. It’s designed with multiplayer in mind, and while that’s only available split-screen at the moment (so had to go untested, sadly), it should be a lot of fun to get a four-player crew together to go bug hunting online when that feature becomes available. At only a couple of weeks old, the game has already had a new mode added, where breaches can happen anywhere rather than in dead-end corridors, adding a crazy-hard level of difficulty to a game that already sees the player as a tasty snack to be nibbled on at its leisure. Most importantly, even with the regular difficulty keeping the odds of survival fairly low, it’s hard to take offense at the number of deaths it inflicts, simply because it’s honestly fun to shake off the loss and head back in. Death Beast Terror Fright has only just started down the road of Early Access, but it’s already a game that feels like it knows what it’s doing and is very good at doing it.