sábado, 1 de novembro de 2014

ALIEN [1984, ZX Spectrum] Review

In 1986 I was just 11 years old when I saw, for the first time, the movie ALIEN, from 1979, and played the Spectrum game soon after.

Developed by Concept Software and originally published by Mind Games in 1984 for Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and the ZED X Spectrum, it wasn’t the first game based on the Alien franchise. The Atari 2600 was the first system to get a Pac Man game.. Huuuu, I mean, an Alien game!...

In 1982 Pac Man was one of the most popular games out there, so the Atari people thought that it would be a nice touch to adapt the maze style gameplay to this first Alien title. Well, it’s totally a piece of crap.

So, for me, the first title that can really put us in that creepy environment is this one.

Alien provides an authentic recreation of the film’s plot.

You control the crew of the Nostromo spaceship by manipulating all the characters through a series of menus. A plan of the three decks displays the current position of the character you are controlling and, beneath, their status or damage to the ship. On the 3 decks there are 35 different rooms that are connected by ducting which the alien uses freely.

To win in this game you have two options: herd the alien into an airlock and blow it into space, or destroy the Nostromo while escaping in a shuttle.
All characters have minds of their own and sometimes disobey orders if they are too scared. Jones, the cat, is an important guide to the nearness of the alien, but, unfortunately, he only likes certain members of the crew. Remember to take him with you when you’re preparing your escape in the shuttle and, to catch him, you need a cat box!

Another very important item that you need to find is the electronic tracker that beeps if anything is moving in an adjacent room.

The sound effects helped to create suspense; the fact that you cannot see where the alien is, but keep coming across evidence of its passage, and hearing it move around, adds to the atmosphere of groping around in the dark.

Until the release of this faithful movie conversion, games licensed from films or TV have been marriages more of convenience than anything else. Games like The Fall Guy or Ghostbusters just concentrated on only one or two subject ideas from the movie and even this last one was hailed as a masterpiece of thematic conversion.

Thankfully this is not the case with Alien. Alien the game was written by fans and it shows. There’s even a quick summary of the film in the excellent booklet that came with the original release of the game. Even today, tension and suspense are very difficult properties to convey on a computer game. And, back in 1984, the creators of this title succeeded in fully recreating this tense environment.

Although the graphics are simple and the looks of the alien less than frightening, there is a tremendous tension in playing this game, and needs extremely complex tactical decisions. When all you can hear are the sounds of the alien approaching, panic can easily set it.

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