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.
'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%
: crude, small characters but some impressive backgroundsSound
: disjointed tune, poor effectsOptions
: you can go to the end of a level without playing it through, but can't complete the game this wayGeneral Rating:
The lesser of two Aliens tie-ins; this US version is closer to the film, but the graphics are poor and gameplay very difficult.
Two screens monitro each space marine while aliens move through the atmosphere processor.
The US Aliens: overhyped, overdifficult and over here.