I need a corporal. You’re it, until you’re dead or I find someone better.
Infested Planet makes no attempt to cover up its inspiration. While this might be a top down puzzle-esque strategy game, it’s clearly Starship Troopers. You command a bunch of gun-ho marines as they drop into planets infested with hives of bugs that want nothing more than to slice through your lowly troops. There’s always insurmountable odds and your troops die as regularly as they are recuited, but it’s all for the greater good. Eventually you’ll push through the waves of insectoids towards their hive and land the killing blow. Then you’ll do it again.
Whilst the graphics might look simple in screenshots, this is a rather beautiful game. The aliens spread out in a pattern from their base and sort of flow across the map towards you. Your soldiers are equipped with various types of high powered weaponry and can cut through five or six xenos in a single shot. This leads to a curiously relaxing scene of streams of attackers crashing against your wall of lead with slightly disturbances in the balance causing one side to plough through the other. Of course tipping the balance in your favour is the aim of the game.
Most maps revolve around you starting at a base and then pushing out to take every other base on the map. As you go you gain supply points which can be spent on various upgrades such as more troops, better weapons or perhaps a turret or two. Scattered around the map are ammo drops that you can collect to fire off your more powerful weapons like RPGs and airstrikes. There’s a limited amount of base building as you construct extra tech buildings to unlock new attacks, but it’s very superficial and you’ll rarely think carefully about placement. Instead your focus is on routes that the horde can take to get to your base. You always seems to have two or three soldiers less than you really need, so you’ll often have to leave a single route unchecked, or perhaps you’ll be able to afford a turret to watch over it (a single turret is surprisingly effective) at the expense of upgrading your squadron’s weapons. Everything is controlled with simple mouse and keyboard commands that will be familiar to anyone who’s played an RTS in the last twenty years. Things like attack move are incredibly important and thankfully provide a way for your soldiers to retreat while still firing.
The game might appear fairly simple – and indeed many levels are – there’s always little hooks that can cause panic. Many levels feature evolving enemies that suddenly become much stronger or faster, occasionally you’ll forget about a path and your bases will start getting captured behind you, some enemies use poison and you might not notice all your squad are doomed until it’s too late. Success comes quite slowly and gradually in Infested Planet but failure seems to happen in a heartbeat.
After a while you will get used to the basic winning strategies and after you’ve got a few upgrades (purchased with money earnt by winning missions) large sections of the game start to grow a little tedious as the fighting doesn’t really change that much, it just takes a long time to achieve your goals. Thankfully there’s a score system and leaderboards to allow you to compete against your friends, trying to complete missions as perfectly as possible.
Overall, Infested Planet is a fun strategy-based diversion, and an oddly soothing one considering what is really happening on the ground, but sadly it’s a strategy game with some clearly winning formulas that hinder the long-term appeal. If you’re a scoreboard junkie and have some friends willing to try the game – it could be very addictive and is certainly polished. If you’re not into the competetive side this is still almost certainly worth the £12 or so asking price for the chance to pretend you’re a heartless Starship Troopers general sending the infantry to their pointless death.