The object of Beam ‘em Up is really very simple: pilot your space ship across planet surfaces and beam up as many different types of alien with your electric ray as possible. The challenge comes in trying to fly the ship across the terrain while being shot at by the aliens, who don’t take too kindly to the idea of being added to your collection!
The spaceship is initially protected by a shield, which will disappear if it touches an alien or if it gets hit by an alien bullet. If it gets hit a second time, it will crash and burn. Don’t worry though, you do get two more chances as you have three spaceships per mission.
If you capture three aliens in quick succession, you’ll activate Hyper mode, which restoreS your shield and turbocharges your beam. However, I think this is quite difficult to do, at least I couldn’t manage to do it. Maybe my ‘quick-beam’ skills are a little rusty!
The power required to beam up an alien is determined by their weight and also by the gravity of the planet you’re on. You can really feel the difference when you’re trying to beam up the bigger aliens.
There’s a total of 48 alien species to collect in all, and you can view those you’ve caught so far on the Collection screen. There’s also a very similar looking Aliens Preview screen which shows the percentage of each alien type you’ve captured so far.
At the Missions screen you can select any unlocked mission out of the 16. When you highlight a mission by pressing the directional buttons, you can see at the top of the screen the maximum time required to achieve a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal, which varies considerably from planet to planet.
Before you start your mission, the intro screen shows you what medals if any you might have earned previously on the mission, your best time so far, and most importantly, which alien specimens you need to capture, and how many. It’s all very neatly and nicely done.
After pressing X to launch the mission, you’re thrown right into the heat of the action, so don’t waste any time pressing the analog stick upwards to stop your spaceship crashing to the ground before you’ve even collected your first specimen.
Use the analog stick to fly around, then hold X to lock onto your alien quarry with the beam. To capture it, hold X down and fly to the top of the screen, dragging the specimen around until it disappears.
To help you keep track of your alien tally, on the right of the screen you’ll see a panel displaying each alien type with a number underneath indicating how many you have left to collect. They don’t have to be the same colour, just the same type.
As soon as you’ve collected all required specimens, the mission will end. Incidentally, don’t worry if you can’t see a particular specimen from the start, some of them won’t turn up until you’ve removed some of the other aliens.
I think that what I like most about this game is the cuteness of the aliens, especially their angry little faces as they stomp around brandishing massive guns and trying to avoid being hit! The overall look of the game is really impressive. The levels have a nice vivid cartoony style about them and some of the backgrounds are truly beautiful.
That said, although I enjoyed the gameplay to an extent, I found it very frustrating at times, especially when you have to drag the aliens around so much in order to capture them. Also, the learning curve seemed to be a little too steep, as the game gets very difficult very quickly. I actually lost interest even at the second mission, Water Pool, because I kept dying time after time.
To sum up, a really nice looking game, but sometimes more frustrating than fun to play, and without enough real depth to the gameplay to keep you coming back for more. Worth a try if you like the look of it, but not an essential purchase.