Day 114: Abduction Action!

Posted: 2011/03/03 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #114, and today’s game is “Abduction Action!”.

The very first game of my indie-game-a-day project was Kris Steele’s “Hypership Out of Control”. Impressed with it, I put all of his other games (released under his label, “FunInfused Games”) on my to-do list to check out, and today I got around to “Abduction Action!”. Having played it extensively today and enjoyed it a great deal, I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

First, from the developer:

“As a UFO pilot in training, you have been tasked with the overwhelming mission of invading Earth, terrorizing the locals, and returning home in one piece. Use your tractor beam to abduct helpless Earthlings and defeat aggressive foes. It will take all your skills, wits, and intellect to prove your alien worth and triumph over humanity.”

As I was playing it, I couldn’t help but feel like it was an updated take on a game I’d played a long time ago. Then it hit me: Choplifter, by Br0derbund.

Now, I have no idea if Kris Steele has ever even heard of Choplifter, it came out in 1982 after all. And it has to be said that this game is no Choplifter clone, but it controls similarly and has certain gameplay elements in common. That’s not a bad thing, Choplifter’s a classic and was one of my all-time favourites on the Commodore 64. This plays like a modern take on Choplifter, with a premise that reminds me of Mars Attacks! (or, if you prefer, “Destroy All Humans!”).

The little green men vs. humanity motif works well with the game, giving a sense of humour that permeates the title. In the first few levels you have to rescue your alien comrades from the surface of the moon, steal cows from farms on Earth (cattle mutiliation, as any UFOlogist will tell you, has long been associated with UFO sightings), fight police officers (and the helicopters giving them air support), attack U.S. military bases that are holding captured aliens, and even abduct cheerleaders as their jock boyfriends (and, eventually, their gigantic football team mascot) try to fight you off.

The game has you controlling your flying saucer with the left stick, while using buttons to do things like to engage “turbo” (that lets you zip around the screen in the classic physics-defying flying saucer manner) and activate your tractor beam. The tractor beam is your primary offensive and defensive option, and also the means to rescue your comrades and/or abduct the humans. Pick up a bale of hay and drop it on a pick-up truck of farmers trying to stop you from abducting their cattle. Pick up a crate and use it as a shield from the shots the human military are firing at you. Pick up those pesky police and drop them from a tall height. The game encourages you to experiment with your flying saucer’s abilities to come up with creative and/or amusing ways to accomplish the objective(s) of each level. I also like the fact that after beating a level, you have the option to stay in the level in a kind of “sandbox” mode where you can just play around, perhaps practicing something you’ve learned, perhaps trying something you think might work, or just amusing yourself. Not enough games do this, usually you’re forced immediately to the next level, no matter how much fun you’re having with the current one.

Speaking of having fun, the backstory is appropriately throwaway for something steeped in 1950s pulp science fiction, but it is told well. You are the worst pilot your race of little green aliens has ever known, and failed every attempt to become a flying saucer pilot. However, you end up marrying into an important military leader’s family and he has to give you a chance to prove yourself. You annoy him, so initially the idea of you failing (and dying) doesn’t bother him so much, beyond the fact that flying saucers are expensive. However, as the story progresses he realises that he doesn’t particularly want to be the one to tell your new wife that you’ve died, and that he would doubtlessly get dragged to your funeral (which, he is sure, would be “as boring as you are”). You’re also given the reasons (or lack of reasons) behind some of the things the aliens are doing to the humans, in some cases literally just to screw with them. It’s one of the most amusing titles I’ve ever played, reminding me a bit of the banter in XBLA title Outpost Kaloki X.

Abduction Action! takes the classic “rescue-’em-up” gameplay of Choplifter (which, ironically, had you fighting off UFOs if you played far enough into the game) and turns it on its head by turning many of the rescues into abductions, and it gives you a much more varied set of challenges, a wider variety of environments to operate within, and a tool in the tractor beam that lets you experiment and come up with a myriad of ways of progressing though each level. Great humour, a lot of variety, and an 80 Microsoft Point price makes Abduction Action! a great buy.

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  1. Kris says:

    For sure I played Choplifter growing up, it was one of my favorite games on our old C64. I think it was likely more a subconscious influence than a direct one. I thought a lot about Rampage while making Abduction Action! actually… similar proportions to buildings/people and similar abilities to be destructive to the human race. Honestly I don’t think there is any game out there that plays quite like Abduction Action! but Choplifter is about as close as they get.

    I thought a bit about the sandbox type environment of GTA while developing this too. I didn’t want you to just be forced into mission after mission, I wanted the player to be able to have fun doing whatever they wanted to do. Plenty of people get enjoyment out of the game simply by dropping cows and watching them splatter on the ground :)

    Thank you again for the review and the kind words. It makes me very happy when my games are appreciated.

    • Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting it’s a Choplifter clone or anything close. Neat to hear you did play Choplifter, though, and that it may have been a subconscious influence. And yes, I agree that there’s nothing quite like Abduction Action!’s gameplay. I’m quite taken with the game. When the gigantic football team mascot came out to defend the jocks and cheerleaders, I actually laughed out loud. :)

  2. hey Steven, nice cite you got here, wondering if you were interested in reviewing a new game we have been working on for about a year now, “The Hearts of Men” for XBLIG! We’re quite excited to finally have it out there, and I have a free key for you if you would like to review, I noticed you take pride in your reviews, and it’s something we would like to share in :D Please let me know if you’re interested, we also have a contest this week for free key giveaway to gamers. Thanks for your time, and hope to speak with you soon

  3. mrdeeke says:

    Abduction Action is fantastically fun and humorous–I had a blast with it.

    A great buy for gamers of all ages, and its definitely something kids can play too. Reminds me of retro arcade games.

  4. I hadn’t really thought about the all ages element of Abduction Action!, but I think you’re right. Similar to a Pixar film, it’s something that can be appreciated on different levels due to simple gameplay and humour that crosses age lines.

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