Alien Family is the second North American release from GREE, following the recently-released Zombie Jombie. While the company claims that Zombie Jombie was aimed more at “hardcore” gamers, Alien Family has been designed as a more family-friendly title with cartoony graphics and a light-hearted sense of humor throughout.
At its heart, Alien Family is a fairly conventional farming game with elements of the pet care genre. It is the player’s job to attract and house a wide variety of aliens while attempting to make as much profit as possible through farming and buildings. Presented from an isometric perspective, the basic gameplay will be immediately familiar to any fans of this style of game, but it’s in the new additions that Alien Family starts to get a little more interesting.
Each of the aliens that comes to live in the player’s commune is a unique entity with their own statistics, experience level and changeable name rather than simply being treated as a resource to be tapped. This helps players feel a sense of ownership over their community and a desire to ensure that their aliens are happy. But it’s not just for show — aliens’ statistics come into play when sending a team on “exploration” missions to nearby planets. This mostly automatic process sees a player-selected team of aliens flying through space and attempting to fend off asteroid attacks on their shuttle. The higher their statistics, the longer they will survive. So long as at least one alien makes it to the destination, the player will normally be rewarded with a new alien along with a generous experience and currency reward, so long as there is room in the commune for additional population. Any aliens who were knocked off the shuttle on the journey are not killed — all aliens simply return to the commune when the journey is over, whether or not it was successful.
The other time aliens’ statistics become important is when attempting to manage the population of the commune. If the player has reached their population limit but still wishes to acquire new aliens, they are able to “fuse” two aliens together. During this process, one alien is used as the “base” and another as a “material.” The base alien absorbs some of the abilities and experience from the material alien, who is consumed in the process. This procedure takes place in a sinister-looking closed chamber which both aliens seem to wander into quite happily. Exactly what goes on inside isn’t made explicit, but it’s probably best not to think about it too much!
Social features come into play as another means of acquiring new aliens. Visiting a neighbor allows players to send “stars” and hopefully receive some in return. Collecting ten stars allows the player to summon a UFO, which drops off a new alien to add to their population. There’s no guarantee that this alien won’t be the same as ones which already live in the commune, but if this happens, players may simply fuse it with another to make room for a fresh new addition to the family. Players may also summon a UFO for free once every 24 hours, and there is a “Premium” UFO option available for hard currency which makes it significantly more likely for rare aliens to be dropped off.
Monetization for the game is handled entirely through in-app sales of premium currency. As usual for this type of game, it may be used for a variety of purposes — purchasing particularly effective income structures, hurrying production or crop growth and calling the aforementioned premium UFO service. Premium services and currency sales are kept unobtrusive, however, allowing those who wish to play for free to have a satisfying experience free of nag screens, while those willing to pay will make faster progress.