Aliens - ZX Spectrum retro review by Paul Davies

*Disclaimer - Phil Oakey is not affiliated with this release.
Space - a dark and cold place, where millions of stars decorate the atmosphere. Comets, shooting stars, planets, black holes and possibly Sandra Bullock can be found within it's bleak un-breathable blanket of mini fireballs (stars again). It's amazing really. It's so huge that we will never find out the full extent of it's majesty with it's seemingly non-stop existence. Just imagine yourself floating in space, taking in the enormity in it all, drifting past milky ways (tasty!), planets in the distance and the hazy weightlessness of it all and then argghh.... ALIENS!!!!

*not actual Spectrum screenshot.
Of course not all aliens are scary (remember ALF?) but these ones indeed are, and if you've seen the film you probably have an idea of what you're going to get with this game. You take control of the Space Marines, investigating strange goings on at the planet LV-426 amongst the human colony currently situated there. People have stopped checking in and the authorities are worried - so you have been given the task of seeing what's going on. 'Thanks for that!', I'm sure they thought. Probably a loose phone cable or something, nothing to worry about. Oh dear.

You're greeted with quite an eery, beepy tune when the game is loaded, which does somehow create quite an atmosphere if you let it play a while. The game screen is in the form of a monitor with the names of the marines and Burke who, by all accounts, was not a marine (can't believe what he tried to do to Ripley - scumbag!) but he's there for the ride too. Hudson is omitted, which is a shame but I guess you can only fit so many characters on one screen. Underneath each name is a number which identifies which room the character is in and underneath that is their level of exhaustion. Green = good, red = bad. The bar will drop and turn red as the characters get more stressed and scared so you will need to let them calm down for it to increase again, but will disappear totally if they get on the wrong end of one of those lovely creatures that like to hide in the ceiling.

Right, so you've prepared yourself to enter this dark and dank place. You've made toilet (you may be going again soon, whether you want to or not), packed your lunchbox, said your farewell to your mum on the phone - now let's get it on! You start the game as Ripley though you can switch between characters by pressing the first letter of their surname on the keyboard (though you need to press 'I' to get Bishop as 'B' will get you Burke). You control a square cross hair which not only do you use to target space creatures, but this will also move you around the rooms. To the right of your image, you will find your ammo level, to the left your health.

In each room, you will find a series of doors which enable you to move around the place. Simply move you cross hair to the door and hit 'SPACE' to open and move onto the next room. You can also shoot the doors open and they will remain in pieces should you again return to that room. This can be handy if you want to keep a trail of where you have and haven't been. You can find yourself going around in circles quite easily (which invariably happens when I play the game), though there are maps available if you search online, or indeed look below, because of the nice fellow that I am - I've provided one for you! Not that I know how to read it. Hmmmm....too complicated for me! Though I read that as you move around the room, you are indeed turning 360 so this may help as guide through the map.

The map - nope, I don't understand it either.
Speaking of shooting things, though I know I've only mentioned doors so far, the gun you are equipped with is not the fastest. It's a 'one shot at a time' jobbie, so you have to be pretty accurate. If you were hoping for the same kind of firepower and range of weaponary you see in the film (mmmm....flamethrower *drool*) then you may be slightly disappointed. Upon seeing a creepy non-do-gooder, you really do have to be sharp or you end up as dinner, as a missed shot will immediately  draw attention to yourself and they are on to you quick sharp. Ouch.

Could you say this game is scary? Yes, indeed you could! Try turning all the lights out in your house, close the curtains, play late at night and switch it on (or load it up in this case - which I know ironically will mean you'll need the light on. Switch the lights off after you've loaded it), enter the game and start your mission. Yeah, you'll be fine for a few minutes until you hear that 'beep' and your name lights up on the screen. This can mean only one thing......some thing is after you. Then you get the constant beeps, that increase in pitch as it gets closer....

Ooh, Bishop. Have you done something to your hair? Yes, sir. I've have it eaten off. 

The game does create a dark and tense atmosphere and the little noises and limited view from the monitor really do add to the whole claustrophobic experience. And as previously mentioned, it really can get a bit scary especially when you've been playing for a while and you've left the various characters in random rooms around the ship and suddenly you hear a buzz and see someones' name light up. Knowing that there's something there and also not knowing how close they are to that character really does get you panicky. Especially if you're currently dealing with a critter on your screen and you hear the buzz from somewhere else. What do you do?! Deal with yours and then go to help your colleague, or sort them out first? Either way, you know someone is going to die. Just make sure it's Burke.

Have I completed this game? No. Did I ever get very far? Did I ever get to see a face hugger? Negative, again. Hmmm.... going on this information, you'd probably think I wasn't keen on it given my progress was more or less zero - but no! Weirdly, I did enjoy meandering around seeking aliens to get killed by, I mean aliens to kill, obviously (Hmm...). You can enjoy a game without being very good at it, can't you? Well, based on this evidence, yes you can. The pros definitely outweigh the cons on this one. Some really good animation on the aliens, great atmosphere, you get to shoot aliens in the head - is there more that you could want? Well, maybe a machine gun, but I guess having to be spot-on with your shooting just adds to the intensity and can do no harm to improving your accuracy which I'm sure you could transfer to real life. Although maybe not such a good idea.

I also remember a friend of mine having Aliens on his Commodore 64 and he once told me he found the Alien Queen. Show off. I never wanted to find her anyway as it would be too scary. Well, that's what I told myself anyway.

'Do you have any tips?' I hear you cry? Well, yes. Shooting aliens in front of doors is not such a good idea as they leave a pool of acid in front of them which will drain your energy each time you use that door. Bad times.Scattered around the ship, you will also see cocoons along the wall. It's probably best these get shot and destroyed as the creepy monsters will spawn from these, though it can be an ammo drain so shoot wisely,

So now that my review is complete,I must warn you, frequent playing can lead to an increase to your underwear bill!

Review by Paul Davies : "Game over man! Game over!!"

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