In the beginning there was just one... now there are many. Director Ridley Scott's 1979 hit film Alien, acclaimed for the intense spookiness of its dark, atmospheric scenes ('In space, no one can hear you scream!' ), spawned a game in 1985: Argus Press Software ' s tricky Men, on the Mind Games label, was a CRASH Smash in Issue 15.
Last year, the screen sequel arrived; some say it surpasses the terror of the original. And a game of Aliens soon came from Electric Dreams and Mark Eyles (designer of another film tie-in. Back To The Future.) It earned 84% Overall in CRASH Issue 37.
Both films are now on video, and the aliens keep on coming on computer too. The US Aliens tie-in is quite different from the UK version reviewed earlier this year; the latter was a straightforward arcade adventure with horizontally-scrolling graphics, pitting the player against a horde of aliens in a series of rooms.
CRASH reviewers found the US version, presented in bird's-eye view, more complex, with more of the film's scenario-though the UK version's graphics, they say, came closer to the film.
In the US Aliens you take the role of Ripley, a survivor from Alien who returns with four space marines to the planet of that first confrontation, LV-426, now known as Acheron.
There are six distinct parts. First, a small drop ship takes Ripley and her crack team down through a tortuous wormhole to the planet's surface. An indicator helps you keep the ship's approach exact, because the wrong trajectory can lead to an aborted landing.
Once on the planet's surface, the four marines (who know how to blast the guts out of anything) go to the planet's atmosphere processor plant. But there they are found by aliens, and may not make it back to the safety of their armoured personnel carrier. This is the second part.
Only one marine can be controlled at a time, and his name is displayed beneath the peripheral-vision motion tracker which displays nearby alien activity. Individual screens indicate, by colour and movement, the life status and safety level of each marine.
Aliens appear with increasing frequency, and any marine too slow to escape or blast his way to freedom is lost unless another marine can be brought to his aid. When two marines are onscreen, both are safe.
Now comes the third part. In the operations room, you are faced with an onrush of foul aliens intent upon getting past Ripley. But her powerful flame-thrower can burn an enemy's body, or at least keep It at bay. Eventually, though, Ripley will have to carve a hole in the thick metal door and enter a maze of air ducts for the fourth part.
This tortuous tunnelwork takes Ripley and her remaining force toward the drop craft. An overhead map traces the complexities of the duct, showing the position of Ripley - and the exit. But the aliens will try to stop the humans, shadowing the movements of Ripley as she flees.
Her problems are added to by Newt, a small girl from the planet's community of human colonists - and easy prey for any slavering alien's jaws as she roams the processor. Ripley has just 17 minutes to rescue Newt before the processor blows up, sending all of Acheron to oblivion.
In this fifth part, Ripley can use a range locator which indicates Newt's proximity, and flares to mark her course. Once found, the terrified child follows her rescuer back to the processor's elevator. If time has not run out. Ripley can return to the craft and blast off.
But as the craft moves through space an alien, queen of all her race, clings to the spaceship's outer skin. When the Queen is discovered back at the spacebase, Ripley slips into something more comfortable - an exoskeleton with power-loader arms. And in the sixth and final part of Aliens, Ripley must use these mechanical limbs in battle with the alien Queen, eventually grabbing her and throwing her out to die in empty space.
Graphics: crude, small characters but some impressive backgrounds
Sound: disjointed tune, poor effects
Options: you can go to the end of a level without playing it through, but can't complete the game this way
'After the almost impossible first level, there's little to hold the attention here. The instructions between sections (particularly those preceding the first level) are interesting, especially if you haven't seen the film. But I don't recommend the US Aliens, the graphics are simple and poorly-coloured, and the pulsating screen in the first level is irritating.'
MIKE ... 69%
'The opening sequences of the US Aliens are atmospheric, but the rest of the game doesn't have the same quality. The first level is a bit like the hyperspace-tunnel sequence in Design Design's Dark Star, and it's quite playable but (big but!) the screen flashes horrendously, adding eyestrain and headaches to your problems. I couldn't get through the rest of the game without cheating.'
BEN ... 10%
'The US Aliens takes a wider view of the movie than the UK version. The graphics are less good (ranging from badly-drawn and simply-animated characters to a very detailed final screen) and less scary, but there's a much stronger relationship with the characters. No normal person could get through the US Aliens without cheating, so it's just as well you can skip a level; at least you can be sure of seeing all the stages. This is nowhere near as much fun as the UK Aliens.'
PAUL ... 56%
Fifty years ago, flight officer Ripley narrowly escaped death at the hands of an alien, a ruthless and biologically perfect killer. Her small ship drifted for those fifty years until, by chance, it was discovered by a deep space probe, and returned Now Ripley is being taken back to the plant LV-426, where she first encountered the creature...
I must say, it's good job I was wearing the old brown cord trousers when I went to see Aliens the movie. Worra tense film! And then there was the first Electric Dreams game which was another tense little drama, covering the run from the atmosphere processor to the landing pad. Now we have the US version of the game, originally designed by Activision (US) for the C64, and converted to the Spectrum by Mr Micro (Who he? Ed). The game is a compendium, which although it doesn't mean you get Snakes and Ladders, Tiddley Winks and Snap, it does mean that you get 6 tightly crafted and well hard games to play. The atmosphere of the film is so accurately captured at times I had to hide behind the sofa to play it.
You begin the game steering the Dropship down through the atmosphere of LV-426, through a series of guidance circles on your heads-up display. This section of the game is quite hard, and it's probably for this reason that Electric Dreams has incorporated a 'skip' feature, whereby you can push SYMB SHIFT/7 to jump onto the next level. In this case the next level is the APC Rescue Attempt, where you have to guide the marines back from the catwaks under the atmosphere processors to the APC, te armoured command car. This again is quite hard, 'cos you have to get away from the swarms of aliens and control four marines at once. Then it's on to the Operations Room Rampage, where you are left on your own to fend off a barrage of aliens while your team cut through the door at the end of the corridor. After that, you are running through the maze of air ducts looking for the exit that takes you to the Dropship, whilst avoiding the crawling aliens. Phew!
But as you know, when you get back to the ship, you go back to find Newt on the catwalks. You follow her signal on the locator, and shoot at the aliens as they leap out at you And finally having escaped (so you thought), you are faced with the Alien Queen, and have to beat her up with the loader arms before flinging her down the hatch.
Aliens features a nice variety of game types, with left/right scrolling, plan view and point-ofview styles being used to gasping good effect. Splattering good fun.
Not to be confused with the British Aliens, which was a more than averagely tedious rushabout with a tiny playing screen and about as much atmosphere as a bus ride. Aliens US, on the other hand, was Activision's second bite at the cherry, a conversion from the original C64 game that sold oodles across the pond. Unlike the Brit one, this sticks pretty closely to the movie plot, so you'll often be thanking your lucky stars that you decided to wear those brown cords after all. Aliens US is actually a compendium of six games, all of which are goo fun, if not overwhelmingly amazing. First you land your ship, then you hae to being the marines back to your Armoured Personnel Carrier, and then you have to hid behind the sofa - whoops! There's a nice variety of game types on offer here, with left/right scrolling, plan view and point-of-view styles all making an appearance. Splattering good fun.
If you're going to pay mucho money for a film tie-in licence, I would have thought that it would make sense to bring the game out while the film was still doing the rounds, or at least fresh in everyone's minds. Oh, and to make the game quite good as well.
A sense of doom first sets in when you realise that Aliens consists of six separate arcade games, strung together to recreate sections of the fabby film. While the Activision Aliens sensibly made a very good job of representing one section in detail, ED Aliens does a sloppy job of six wee gamettes, none of which conjure up much excitement at all.
The first boring bit is identifying the equipment used. Since most of us can tell a gun from a helmet without needing a training course, this isn't much of a challenge.
Then, after umpteen tape loads, we finally get to the first part of the game. And deary me, it's that tedious old pilot-your-spaceship-through-a-series of wobbly-concentric-circles idea, first seen in the venerable Master of the Lamps. If you can survive the excitement, you get an entry code to the next level, which again is loaded from tape.
The best part of Aliens (which unfortunately bears a good deal of resemblance to the Activision version of the game) takes place in the system of tunnels leading to the Atmospheric Processor. You have four marines to control, switching from one to another with the number keys. Each has a status display showing general health, and whether any aliens are nearby. If this turns red, indicating that the marine is in Alien hands (or claws), you must immediately guide another marine there and blast your buddy free.
The next bit is a sort of horizontal Space Invaders. Then a dismal maze-game.
Then it's back to the tunnels again, this time in a solo mission trying to find the lost Child Newt!
On the whole, a pretty badly-conceived and poorly executed effort, not a patch on the Activision Aliens. They say that there are some place in the Universe you don't go alone. There are also plenty where is just isn't worth the effort.
Label: ELectric Dreams
Author: Mr Micro
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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