Following the success of Apidya and Sim Ant, insect-related games are back in vogue, or so it would seem. And Palace's release is no exception, pitching you against hordes of insect-nasties in a deep-space moonbase, but it has a few other elements which make it something more than just another blast-em-up.
Hostile Breed combines all the excitement and action of a shoot-em-up with the strategy elements you'd expect to find in a simulation. The chief element of strategy centres on the base complex where you find yourself on the receiving end of a massive invasion. The whole complex requires careful controlling and programming or it just becomes a liability.
The eight-legged moonbase has just been through an earthquake which has cracked the walls. Insect aliens are pouring through these breaches by the dozen, heading towards the control room. If they get there, all hell will break loose, and your game will be over.
You're provided with a nifty shuttle craft which you fly down the wings of the moonbase. You can attach it to a special monorail in the ceiling and whiz off down the corridor at high speed. The shuttle is armed, but at first it's not exactly bristling with hardware. You need to build this up later using the base's production facilities.
In the central command centre you have five departments under your control: the reactor, the production line, the hangar, the base-defense system and the computer terminal. The most important is the reactor, because it demands careful handling to prevent it exploding. It's down to you to balance the levels of power required around the base complex. If you overload it, you're history.
The production line is your only hope of restoring order. It creates a supply of robots which trundle along fixing holes, mending cables and putting new rails in the ceiling. You've got to decide how many robots to put in each wing, and sort out what jobs need doing most urgently. But it doesn't end there; robots get attacked by aliens, so you have to fly in and protect them.
In short, Hostile Breed is an eight level shoot-em-up, but it's laid out in such a way that you can get to any level whenever you like. The control centre is a vital piece of the jigsaw, and devoted shoot-em-up fans might at first find this a bit too much for them to handle. But the principle is pretty simple and it only takes a few minutes to suss out what you need to be doing.
A Breed apart
Apart from the redeveloped shoot-em-up idea there's not really much that sets Hostile Breed apart from hundreds of other shoot-em-ups. The 'in-between' scenes and the death-screen are pleasing, but not great, while the in-game sprites are vaguely cartoon-like.
The sound effects are raunchy enough, but there are quite as many as you'd probably like to give you the real atmosphere. This isn't quite made up for by the powerful intro music, which is a good deal better, but still not quite enough.
You have to hand it to Palace, Hostile Breed is not your ordinary shoot-em-up. However, it is questionable whether you'll get that much more out of it. If you want a bit of 'think' and your 'shoot' and you're opposed to mind violence (but not plain ol' everyday violence), go for it. You'll enjoy it.