The murky world of Alien video games

Like almost anyone in their early 30’s/late 20’s, I love the Alien films. Toys, games, t-shirts, books, dvd’s, Blu-Rays, VHS’, patches, posters, statues…you slap the Alien logo on it and I’ll spend stupid amounts of money obtaining it. I’m the guy that will rant at you for 20 solid minutes if you refer to the Alien as a ‘The Xenomorph’ BECAUSE THAT’S NOT IT’S FUCKING NAME.

*clears throat* …sorry.

As I type this, an Alien peers down from the top of my monitor, taunting me whilst I wear a ‘Nostromo’ t-shirt. I’m a walking stereotype that’s one Giger-themed tattoo away from being too far gone.

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“Actually, it’s about ethics in…”

But, like I say, this isn’t an unusual thing, the Alien franchise is a behemoth, a cultural touchstone to thousands of people. A franchise that as you all know has extended into videogames, some of which have been amazing, some have been utter, incomprehensible shite. Spurned on by how good Alien Isolation is, I thought I’d dive into them and as a justification to spend this much time playing games for you, dear reader that I’m going to play EVERY GOD DAMN LAST ONE OF THEM chronologically and write a little about them. A rule I’m setting though: this will purely be just games based on the Alien franchise alone, if it includes the words ‘VS’ or similar, I aint touching it, ya get me? This is mainly because really, everyone knows about the Alien vs Predator games; how the first one is amazing, the second shinier but a little worse and the recent one was utter guff…so you don’t need to hear me bang on about them.

So, enough chatting, here’s the first part:

Alien (1982, Atari 2600, Fox Video Games).

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This game has little or nothing to do with the film. It’s a Pac-Man clone and a really bad one at that. Obviously the power of the 2600 couldnt create a decent render of the Alien, but this looks more like a yawning Moose.

That said, if this was on a t-shirt, I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

That said, if this was on a t-shirt, I’d wear it in a heartbeat.

It also has some weird Frogger-esc levels where you have to cross rows of the Alien-Moose things. I just don’t really know what this is…there’s really nothing to say about it, an odd little curiosity that shows everything it’s got in one screenshot.

Really, it’s awful. Go play Pac-Man instead.

ALIEN – (1984, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum – Amsoft)

This is more like it. Tense and (for a C64 game) atmospheric, starting off with the message ‘Kane is dead’ and it piles on the tension from there on out. it actually shares a lot with Alien: Isolation in that fighting the Alien brings nothing but death- unless you have the right tools to take it out or blast it out of the airlock – so avoiding it until the right time is the main aim of the game…that and rescuing Jones the cat. You flick between each member of the Nostromo’s crew, shown by portraits that actually resemble the cast:

alien

You can practically hear Lamberts shrill voice

and you can choose to give them simple orders to move or pick up objects, The remarkable thing is the amount of strategy this game manages to employ. Not only is the Alien after you, but one of your crew is also an android, so you need to figure that out (and it’s not always the one you’re currently thinking of), but also; the escape shuttle only holds three crew, so you gotta get thinking about ways of whittling down your team, but leaving enough alive to carry out the mission. Kill too many too early (my favorite method: telling them to go to the airlock and blast them into space…I’m a horrid person) and you might find you can’t get to the shuttle or take the Alien down because Dallas had the net and Dallas is now dead…it’s really, really tense with a thick atmosphere of dread hanging over you at all times…and all this from a few simple green lines and some blips and bloops that the C64 passes off as sound.

And look at this title screen:

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The text actually appears on letter by letter, just like the titles to the film, a lovely little touch, all whilst the filthiest 8-bit dubstep you’ve never wanted to hear slams around in the background.

But, it’s not all great. It took me an age to figure out exactly what the hell I was supposed to be doing…it’s confusing to the point of being obtuse about it, but then the game is 30 years old…maybe all the hand holding games do now has weakened me when it comes to thinking for myself. On the whole though, this is still a great little game once you understand how it plays (I’d suggest grabbing a guide to understand the mechanics), so if like me, you’re a huge Alien fan I’d highly recommend giving it a go.

And that, dear friend is the first part. These were the only two games based around Alien that were released, maybe it was the limitations of the time that stopped people from being able to turn Ridley Scott’s slowly burning dread-filled horror into a game, or that the c64 one nailed it so no one else bothered to try. From here on in we get a little Aliens-centric, for obvious reasons so I’ll be tackling the various riffs on James Cameron’s classic next time.
Until then, can someone just go and print that Moose Alien on a t-shirt so I can stop thinking about it? Cheers.

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