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With today’s cutting-edge aesthetics, it’s hard to ever imagine that we could once get scared senseless by a humble 8-bit computer game. Nevertheless, Electric Dreams’ wonderfully chilling adaptation of James Cameron’s Aliens did just that – and how.
Alright, so the likes of F.E.A.R., Condemned and the Silent Hill franchise have presented terror in a whole new, far more realistic way, but it’s amazing to think that playing Aliens was so intense that there was a time when I couldn’t even load it up, let alone play it, unless my bedroom lights were on.
Despite being incredible basic to look at, Aliens dripped with atmosphere and was quite unlike any movie conversion of the time, and not just because it was so bloody good. The first-person view used in the game perfectly matched the moment in the film when the pumped-up marines start exploring the deserted base and, as the game progressed, it managed to capture all the terror and confusion of the movie in a way few other titles have managed.
Taking control of one of six soldiers, including Ellen Ripley, your aim was to search the narrow corridors of the abandoned base to find out what happened to all its inhabitants. As you made your way through the claustrophobic rooms, your ears were treated to an incredibly eerie soundtrack – all jarring notes and jangling bleeps – that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up; it made you wish you’d invited a friend to share the fear.
As scary as this initial exploration was, nothing could compare to when you finally tracked down one of your xenomorphic foes. A once slow beep from your scanner would continually rise in pitch and frequency as you drew ever closer to the alien nightmare. Take too long firing or, worse still, miss and the terrifying foe would rapidly move towards you, filling your ears with that painful alarm and your viewing screen with static. It may well be true that “In space no one can hear you scream”, but when you’re playing Aliens on your own it’s quite a different matter…