Alien: Isolation Mobile Review - Handheld Survival Horror at Its Best

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Ever since Alien: Isolation Mobile was announced, I've been conflicted. Part of me was excited to dive back into Feral Interactive's port of the acclaimed survival-horror game, but another part very much dreaded the thought of returning to Sevastopol space station's gloomy corridors, rattling ventilation shafts, and the murderous entity that inhabits them. I guess that's the sign of a great horror game—it lives rent-free in your mind forever.

It's one of the reasons I don't often play them, but like Mr. X in Resident Evil 2, the original concept of Creative Assembly's Xenomorph and the AI governing it was so great that I had to make an exception. Working my way through the space station inch by inch was an exhilarating experience, as the alien stalked the halls and clambered its way through the walls and ceiling around me.

Now, with Feral Interactive's mobile port of the original game, I have a good reason to subject myself to more nerve-shredding fun. First off, though, I feel like I should state the very fact this port exists is impressive. It really shows off the potential playing power of mobile, a feat Feral has become a dab hand at with its high-quality ports, including its mobile version of the XCOM 2 Collection.

Walking through a vent with a flare in Alien: Isolation Mobile.
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While Alien: Isolation's Android port clearly displays a few visual sacrifices in comparison to the original, it still exudes that same sense of cinematic atmosphere and feels like the same game. As with any of these visually impressive ports, I always recommend playing on a tablet if you have one, but Alien: Isolation is more than playable on mobile, especially if you plug in a pair of headphones for that BAFTA Award winning audio.

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The Xenomorph

For those unfamiliar, Alien: Isolation is set fifteen years after the Ridley Scott film, and tells the story of Ellen Ripley's daughter, Amanda, who is still searching for her. Amanda follows the flight recorder of her mother's ship, the Nostromo, to Sevastopol space station, but things onboard have gotten a little out of hand.

Groups of survivors are shooting anything that moves, androids have gone rogue, and to top it all off, a Xenomorph is on the loose, picking people off one by one. Playing as Amanda, you have to bypass these dangers, using tools and your engineering smarts to unlock doors, cause distractions, and stay one step ahead of the Xenomorph hunting you.

A view of Sevastopol station in Alien: Isolation Mobile.
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And I don't mean that figuratively: the Xenomorph is trying to track you down. One of the scariest things about Alien: Isolation is that no matter where you are in the station, the alien can move with impunity, popping out of vents to continue its hunt. You rarely get a moment of respite, and even once you acquire the flamethrower, you can only hold it off for brief periods rather than killing it outright.

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Alien: Isolation is kind of like a Metroidvania: you explore the station, and find tools to unlock and explore new areas. The only difference is that as you're trying to puzzle out what happened and escape, you're also being pursued. If you're crafty, though, you can pit the Xenomorph against hostile groups of survivors, and both will fight each other, though obviously the alien will win. Still, better them than you, right?

Survivors fighting each other in Alien: Isolation Mobile.
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Keeping Control

Alien: Isolation is a good game to adapt for mobile since you don't actually need a lot of buttons to move and crouch, which is most of what you'll be doing. This version features a simple on-screen button layout—you can hold the weapon button to craft and equip items quickly, tap the flashlight to light things up, and tap the bullet button to swing your wrench. There is also gamepad support and vibration feedback, though I turned this off and turned up the trackpad sensitivity a bit.

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Most impressive of all is that you can configure your own custom control scheme, changing the button layout or even deleting them outright to better suit your preferences. You can also decrease button scale or opacity if you find that they're getting in the way of the screen—super useful when playing on mobile. Head to 'Controls' and tap 'Control Scheme' to start experimenting.

The crafting screen in Alien: Isolation Mobile.
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Alien: Isolation Mobile also retains the visual aesthetic inspired by the original film, with chromatic aberration and film grain. I found these blurred things a little too much for me on a smaller phone, but luckily you can tweak them in the menu if you want to sharpen things up a little. I can't speak for tablets, but it can sometimes be difficult to make out details in the Android version, especially in such a visually rich environment.

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I don't really think there's much, if anything, that Feral could have done about this, though. It's a really good port, but it's inevitable that there are a few little compromises to be made in order to get Alien: Isolation working on mobile at all. On the whole, the port features everything you'd want, really: an adaptable control scheme, as well as the same atmosphere and sound design from the original, especially when wearing headphones.

Similar to the XCOM 2 Collection, it does drain battery pretty quick, but if you're anything like me, you're not going to be undertaking massive sessions of Alien: Isolation at once. It's a pretty intense and stressful game, and not particularly easy to play on a casual basis. If you're looking for more content after the base game, though, this port does come complete with all of the DLC as well.

If you missed it the first time, or just want a survival horror game to chip away at, Alien: Isolation is one of the most faithful mobile ports I've seen in quite some time.

Verdict: 4/5

Reviewed on a Samsung Galaxy S10.