The three feature films in the Alien series offer film-goers three different genres: Alien is a suspense-thriller, Aliens is a Terminator-style shooting and explosion bonanza, while the third, Alien 3 is a kind of Ealing comedy set aboard a prison planet, where Ripley, the survivor of the first two films, crashes her spaceship. IT seems like an Ealing because: 1) it's full of chirpy cockneys, 2) - there are loads of slapstick routines; and 3) - there is no real violence or suspense at all in the film. That's not to say it isn't good, it's just different, and full marks to the director for making it so.
Anyway, this game is a tie-in with the latter of the three films. This would be a crackingly good thing, except that it doesn't follow the plot in any detail, apart from the fact that it stars Ripley and an abundance of aliens. Acclaim have spurned the chance of an excellent graphical adventure, capitalising on the unexpected humour of the film, and instead produced yet another platform shoot-em-up.
This has presumably got something to do with consoles which is a shame because the possibilities opened up with the power of the Amiga are tremendous. Also, we could mention the fact that the film didn't involve any kind of weaponry, and yet in the game Ripley is armed with a flame-thrower, a grenade launcher, a pulse rifle, and a set of hand grenades. Hardly ill-equipped, eh? Still, let's give Acclaim the benefit of the doubt, because shoot-em-ups are generally a little bit dull without any weapon.
The graphics are sound enough, with a good, dark use of colour of the backdrops and an excellent alien sprite, but what's happened to Ripley? Admittedly, in the feature film she looks a bit weird, but in the Acclaim version she's so thin looking she looks like she's been filmed in CinemaScope, and she leans forward when running as if there's a 70mph headwind.
...no-one can hear...
To the game's credit, the characters are quite well animated - Ripley runs, climbs and crawls realistically, with her legs moving in sync - but it loses a lot of credibility in the jumping and leaping stakes.
Alien³ offers very little in the way of atmosphere. For a start, there's no title music. Acclaim have wasted the opportunity of building up a tense atmosphere before the game by omitting to include a haunting, atmospheric title track, and instead have left it silent - which is unforgivable. Even the title graphics are rather dull, so there's nothing to hook you into the game.
In the game itself you have a choice of either terrible in-game music, or some good (but sparse) sampled spot effects. The doors open with a nice servo noise, the grenades explode with a satisfying boom, but Ripley emits a weak masculine grunt when hit, which really doesn't suit her at all.
The list continues: there's no 'blip' noise when the tracker is activated - which added an enormous amount of tension and atmosphere to the feature films. Also missing is the terrifying screech which the big-screen aliens give out when shot -why.
So what of the game? Well, it takes place over 15 levels, which are very large in size, and consist of dimly lit corridors linked up by narrow air shafts where Ripley crawls along - her guns still work in here - just as well because aliens patrol the shafts.
The two basic things to do in the game are shoot aliens, obviously, and rescue people which the aliens have been imprisoned. You are given one of three combinations of these tasks, depending on the level: Rescue, where you must locate and rescue the prisoners; Mayhem, where you must kill all the aliens; and Mission, where you must rescue prisoners and kill the aliens.
When you have completed a level you must then attempt to locate the exit - which is sometimes quite difficult in itself, especially since you have to try and beat the clock. Yes, there is a time limit as well, which is quite tight, but not impossible.
Killing the aliens is quite easy, when you consider the amount of fire-power at your disposal. You only have a certain amount of ammunition, though, so you have to be fairly sparing. Your pulse rifle uses about ten shots to kill an average alien, but just one grenade from the 99 available will take him out with a flurry of acid and alien bodily parts.
This aspect of the gameplay is great, and this type of gratuitous violence gives you a bit of a kick. Again on the minus side, though, the aliens could do with a bit of intelligence. Instead of homing in on you, they follow set paths, so they are easy to dodge with a little practice; and when they run off screen they will disappear and reappear from their start position - a bit of lax programming, methinks. Also, in some places there seems to be some of the map graphics missing - on one of the levels you find that you can walk into darkness, until you eventually fall to your death. Maybe this is intentional, but I'm not completely convinced.
No, the whole game seems as though it has been rushed out to meet a tight deadline, which is a shame because with a relatively small amount of work it could have been a great shoot-em-up. There is a good game in here somewhere, but faced with the lack of variety, sound and overall atmosphere, it just won't leap out and grab you...