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Alien

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Released: 1982

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Atari 2600

Publisher: 20th Century Fox

Developer: 20th Century Fox

Submitted by: Bill Matthews

With the release of Prometheus at the cinema- one of my all time favourite sci-fi franchises- it encouraged me to dig out and dust off some of my old Alien games (Alien 3 on the Mastersystem is awesome- but that’s a review for another day) including this pretty much unheard of 1982 tie-in of Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 movie Alien.

People unfamiliar with this game could be forgiven for dismissing it yet another Pac-Man clone- but they would be wrong. For starters its not a maze you’re running round in- it’s the service tunnels of the Nostromo. Secondly, you’re not collecting dots- you’re stamping on Alien eggs (presumably wearing some kind of special acid resistant boots). Thirdly you’re a human (the manual makes no reference to Ripley; you are just labelled as Human). Fourthly whilst… um…right, I can’t do this any more, o.k. it is a Pac-Man clone- but as Pac-Man clones go it’s a dam good one.

Graphically, its not amazing – you’re just a stickman and the great two mouth beast itself looks like a walking plumbers wrench. But on the plus side the gameplay is very fluid and a lot of fun to play. Other differences from the original Pac-Man format include the use of a blow torch to fight off the Alien, which is damn pretty cool. It doesn’t kill them (you still need to collect the big pill/big alien egg for that) but it does scare them off in the opposite direction, giving you time to run away. Another neat little feature of the game is the Frogger-esque inbetween round stage. Here loads of Aliens of all different colours all decide to have a party, form a conga line, and you (the Human) have 8 seconds to run across the room without being hit. Randomly fun.

Yes there have been Alien games released over the years that are (a lot) better than this. Yes, the game is hardly original and no, the game barely lives up the suspense and horror that Ridley Scott so masterfully created in his original sci-fi epic (if at all), but before you dismiss it entirely please keep in mind that the original A2600 Pac-Man conversion was so legendary crappy, you’re probably better of playing this instead- at least in this clone you get to use a blowtorch…

Alien

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Released: 1984

Genre: Strategy

Format reviewed: Commodore 64

Publisher: Argus Press

Developer: Paul Clansey

Submitted by: Glenn Attenborough

I’ve always been a fan of the film Alien, so when I saw this game in the cheapie bin years ago I decided to give it a shot.

The object of the game is simple: find and destroy the alien before it kills you. Gameplay involves moving your 6 crew-members around the 3 decks of the Nostromo in an attempt to locate the creature. Characters can equip various weapons and items such as electric prods, flamethrowers and motion trackers.

There are three ways to kill the alien. The most straightforward way is to engage it in direct combat. This is tough because the alien is quite strong. You also risk damaging the ship and your characters with acid blood. It takes a few encounters (and quite likely a few dead characters) to beat it this way. Secondly, if the alien moves into an airlock you can try to blow it out into space. I assume this is possible because I never actually managed to pull it off. Thirdly, just like in the film, you can set the Nostromo to self-destruct and escape in the shuttle.

The best thing about the game is it is actually quite faithful to the film. The programmer is obviously a fan and it shows in lots of little details. You can go crawling around in the air vents or try to catch Jones the cat, who can alert you to the alien’s presence. Even the traitorous android is included, with one of your characters turning on you if you command them to attack the alien.

It all sounds quite good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately there are a few fairly serious issues. The game moves at a cripplingly slow pace and has more bugs than you can shake a chestburster at. The laughably un-atmospheric screen display deserves a mention, with it’s bright green map and multicoloured status bars.

I would love to see this game remade, with the above negative issues addressed. As it is though, if you are a patient and forgiving Alien fan there is a bit of fun to be had here.