Assuming for a moment that you’re one of those people convinced that we’re being visited by little green men who abduct cows and leave pretty messages in the fields of farmers, then UFO Afterlight represents a terrifying vision of mankind’s future that you’re probably expecting to happen any day now.
You see, the aliens in UFO Afterlight - known as Reticulans - aren’t particularly interested in furthering ties with the human race, and after a prolonged conflict they have succeeded in forcing us off the Earth to live in exile on Mars.
An uneasy truce has developed, but 50 years on even that is threatened when humankind finds itself under attack once again from both the alien marauders and renegade robot enemies.
If you’re mature enough to recall the likes of Laser Squad on the Spectrum and X-Com: Enemy Unknown on the Amiga then you’ll be perfectly at home here. The turn-based action is a dead ringer for those classic titles.
As you move around the map you encounter enemies, and upon every encounter the game switches to the ‘Tactical Battle’ mode. Here all the units on the battlefield - both friendly and hostile - must adhere to a strict action sequence, which is displayed at the top of the screen. This shows the order in which each unit can proceed, and is vital when it comes to creating a winning strategy.
Moving units around is simple, but if you want them to survive then you have to make use of cover. If a unit stands next to a rock, enemy fire will bounce harmlessly off the object in question, but the unit itself will handily be able to fire over the obstruction.
Long-range attacks are facilitated by the various guns and projectile launchers available in your armoury, some of which aren’t unlocked until later in the game. You also have access to grenades that explode over a wide radius, making it easy to ensnare several enemies in one blast.
In addition to this there are melee attacks. These are incredibly powerful but naturally your units have to leave the safety of cover and approach the enemy in order to get close enough to swing their sword, and this puts them at risk.
Another vital combat option is the ‘over watch’ ability. Selecting this puts the unit into standby and they will automatically retaliate against any enemy that fires on them.
Naturally, your trusty troops are going to get a few bumps and grazes (or worse) during each mission so you’ll be thankful for the medi-kits possessed by certain units. Using these, it’s possible to patch up your battle-scarred underlings.
The game is split up into various missions, with the usual objective being the annihilation of the enemy forces, be they alien or robotic. Prior to each outing you have the opportunity to select your squad of up to four soldiers, as well as their equipment.
As each mission progresses your units gain experience and become more and more adept in the art of xenomorphic eradication. Due to this, you end up becoming extremely attached to them, mainly because the more experienced (and powerful) troops make your life a heck of a lot easier.
Although UFO Afterlight isn’t the most attractive game you’ll ever see (nor the most startlingly original) it still ranks as one of the best titles of its kind currently available on mobile phone and should be downloaded by budding interstellar commanders at the earliest opportunity.