I have seen the Rambo films and I have played countless shoot-'em-ups, but I have never come across anything with a plot as decidedly gung-ho as the instruction leaflet accompanying Electra's debut release, Better Dead Than Alien. The title itself suggests a severe case of extra-terrestrial xenophobia on the programmer's part. According to the blurb, aliens are "the most revolting life forms ever to pollute the Universe and threaten to obliterate freedom and democracy". Stirring stuff indeed.
After you have opened the box and waded through all the worthless cardboard gimmicks (Including a 'Brand Zoom'4-page comic with some of the worst artwork I have ever seen) and loaded up the disk, you will reel in horror as you realise that BDTA is not the vertically scrolling shoot-'em-up that the screenshots on the box led you to believe, but is in fact a Space Invaders clone!!!
After making your initial game selections on the title screen, you are plunged straight into the first level and the first wave of nasties who, in true Space Invaders style, plod across the screen in formation before dropping down one line and plodding back the other way. Your spaceship (which looks suspiciously more like a crown than anything else) is positioned at the bottom of the screen and moves around under mouse control blowing away any alien scumfilth who dares to be on the same screen as you.
Most of the aliens have a little 'eyeball' thingy that glows red (for some unknown reason) while there are a couple in each wave that have a green glowing thing, and guess what (ooh, do tell us Gaz, we can't wait!) when you shoot it, it drops a little capsule that you can pick up to upgrade your ship's weapons. Extra weapons include 'scatter bolts' that let you fire in three directions at once, the ubiquitous shields and yer actual armour missile what can waste a whole row of alien filthbags with a single shot. Cor blimey!
To provide some sort of relief between the rounds of alien-zapping tedium, every so often there are a couple of variety rounds, one of which being a simple 'destroy the mothership' affair where a large and extremely ugly alien comes flying down the screen at you and has to be hit quite a lot to be destroyed, and the other being a neat variation on the Asteroids theme. On this round, huge swirling rocks whiz around the screen and have to broken down piece by piece in order to finish the level. For sheer entertainment value, this was the high point of the game for me, but only because the rest of it was so boring.
Better Dead than Alien is a typical example of a game that, despite the programmers' best efforts, has totally failed to come off. The graphics, although quite pretty, are poorly animated and fall way short of the machine's potential. Sound too is poor, with no tune to speak of and although the synthesized effects are nice, they are far too sparse to have any real effect. The whole thing is very user-unfriendly and the mouse control totally cack (as GP would say). The only redeeming features are the amusing gung-ho attitude of the instructions and the impressive sampled applause on the high score table. In my opinion, the programmers have concentrated more on producing a game with a sense of humour than a playable one, and the end result is little more than uninspiring.