Browsing around the eShop for a quality quick-play game is a very dicey proposition.
Sometimes you'll hit gold, but other times you'll walk away with a clunker and a renewed vow to never again buy a game that doesn't have a demo (or a review on Pocket Gamer.)
You have nothing to fear from G-Style's oddball puzzle-runner Alien on the Run. It might not look like much, and it doesn't promise to deliver a lot - but what it does deliver it does so almost perfectly.The rundown
As Alien on the Run's title implies, the game kicks off when you take control off a fugitive, cartoony alien fleeing from his captors.
He's been scooped up by a decidedly unfriendly UFO, and must escape through a series of 80 fast-paced puzzle levels before his time on each run expires.
These puzzle levels are painfully easy early on, as you're only concerned with dashing through or around tractor beams. Soon after the tutorial, however, you'll run into something the game didn't prepare you for - a pop-up boxing robot.
I won't lie - I completely froze when I saw this. I might have even glanced over at my dog with a confused what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-this look on my face.
After failing the level, I went back in with renewed purpose and saw a sliding gauge on the bottom of the top screen that said "Press B". The trick to socking it out with the robot, then, was to hit the B-button when the gauge is in the right position three separate times.
Part of me wanted to dock Alien on the Run points here - since there wasn't anything about pop-up robots in the tutorial - but I took it in my stride and carried on.
And I'm glad I did.
He ran so far away
After my encounter with the boxing robot, I ran across other unexpected obstacles in the various themed levels of Alien on the Run and all were easily and intuitively bypassed once I learned to think the way the game wanted me to.
What's more, Alien on the Run uses these gimmicky roadblocks sparingly to spice up levels full of classic video game obstacles like slippery ice patches, conveyor belts, and electrified floor tiles.
You might assume from this that the other levels in Alien on the Run will bore you, but that's hardly the case.
Every time you defuse a yellow tractor beam, you're treated to a silly, Rayman-esque scene of the runaway alien striking all manner of comedic poses.
Whether he's imitating Michael Jackson in "Smooth Criminal" or having a quick bath, it's a great trick to make you smile during early levels and ease the pain of later ones.
And, yes, the later levels will hurt.
You'll notice as the levels progress that the ample starting time you had in the Rookie zone has dwindled to an almost impossibly stingy glimpse - and soon you'll be diving for yellow tractor beams just for the hope adding a few more precious seconds to the clock.Runner's high
Even with this steep late-game challenge, it's still theoretically possible to clear all of the 80 levels offered in Alien on the Run in an afternoon - but it's a game best enjoyed in short, quick doses.
Each level is fast to play and snappy to load, which makes Alien on the Run a perfect game to have on your 3DS while out and about.
And while it certainly isn't the deepest game out there, Alien on the Run feels like a bargain at its eShop price of $3.99 / ~£2.49.