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Potpourri

Alien Thing

Thomas Keynote

Aftermath of World of Atari

Hoverstrike

Asteroids

Gravitar Review

Site Review

LaST Word

Alien Thing from 999 Software

Review by David Waters


When "Alien Thing" arrived on my doormat, I was very impressed. Opening the jiffy bag revealed not a dull disk, but a professionally made CD box. The high quality front cover depicts a marine and alien facing each other off. Inside the case, held in by some craftily cut foam padding, there were three disks. Two of them are for the game and the other is an "Expert Disk". Initially there was disappointment at the apparent lack of documentation; however, I soon noticed that inside of the front cover actually contained the plot and guides for each mission. Loosely cut pieces of paper also fell out which describe the game controls and how to use the expert disk. I'd recommend keeping these papers away from dogs and hamsters, etc. They are quite small and so could easily be misplaced.

Eager to play, I powered up my STe and bunged the disk into the drive. The game has the facility to run from a Hard Drive so I followed the instructions given on one of the pieces of paper. Unfortunately, it only seems to want to work from the root directory of the drive, so you'll end up with a folder and a 400k program in the root. I personally don't really mind, but some might say it would have been better to run it from a sub directory of say, "Games" or "Programs".

The game loads with an introductory sequence that describes the plot:

You are a marine sent to investigate a rogue asteroid, upon which an alien threat is mounting. They must be destroyed!

The information is given in a scrolling message at the top of the screen with excellently drawn stills depicting the story. My only complaint is that it goes just a little quick for my eyes so it's a bit hard to read the first time.

Then you are given several credit screens, the classic quotation from The Fly: "Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid". This sets the tone of the game nicely.

Once the game proper has begun, the player is presented with a top down view of the shoot-em-up action. The graphics are clear and it is obvious what the game objects are meant to represent. A neat touch is the use of shaded floor tiles in appropriate locations to give the impression of depth to the image.

Exploring the various lockers in this first room quickly reveals the game's Achilles heel: the power-ups you collect from the various lockers, are placed. Therefore you get a recurring problem of having loads of ammunition for your machine gun, but no keys to open any of the doors. Once you have reached this predicament, there is no option but to sacrifice one of your lives, via a keyboard command, to receive the 5 keys you get to start with. This is actually very frustrating because it could have been easily avoided.

Each of the eleven missions has one or two tasks for you to carry out. Tasks range from simply eliminating all of the aliens from the level, to replacing fuses so the lights will come back on. Some levels are in nearly total darkness, a very sinister effect.

My first encounter with an alien however pushed any other criticism to the back of my mind. The excellently drawn beasts race towards me at a high velocity, allowing only a split second to let rip with a hail of bullets. After a second or so of pummeling, the Alien finally succumbed to my lead handshake and exploded into a spray of blood and gore. VERY SATISFYING! Sometimes aliens can be caught in their egg stage. If your quick you can kill them off before they know what's going on.

Once all mission objectives are complete and you've reached the exit, you receive a password to take you back to this level again. Without this, I'd never play it through because it involves such a big time investment. Passwords are entered at the rippling logo, which took a bit of working out because it is hidden away on one of the bits of paper.

At the end of the day, barring only the slight problem with the keycards, the game is excellent. It's smoothly presented and has bags of challenge, especially with the addition of the expert disk. This disk patches the original levels to have more aliens and fewer keys, apparently because someone said it was too easy. I wouldn't want to meet that person in a dark alley because I thought the game was pretty hard as it was. The disk does, however, show extra thought from the author about the longevity of the game.

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Playability: 6/10
Overall: 8/10

GOOD POINTS:

  • Excellent alien animation, good atmospheric tension.
  • Varied mission ideas kept me interested. Harder skill setting by using Expert Disk

BAD POINTS:

  • It's sometimes impossible to open a vital door, through no fault of the player.
  • Only a few alien types to kill.
  • Ambient music could be annoying.