I'd like to thank the Academy...

Plan 9 From Outer Space logo

GREMLINS * £34.99 * 1 meg * Mouse * Out now

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sorry, you've just caught me watching Plan 9 From Outer Space. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It's quite crap, and possibly the funniest film ever made. And lucky for you out there in Punterland, it comes free (free! free!) with Plan 9 From Outer Space - The Game. Well, not really free 'cos the game costs a hefty £35, but you get the idea.

And how crap is Plan 9? Here's a "do it yourself" visual aid to help you find out just how embarrassing this movie is. Pop downstairs and have a rummage in the fridge. Get some cheese, or if you haven't got any pop down the shops and buy one. Now, wrap the cheese in a damp rag and leave it in the sun, or behind a radiator. Leave it for six months. Unwrap the cheese and take a big sniff of that lovely aroma. Plan 9 From Outer Space is twice as cheesy as that.

Indeed, this could well be the only game to actually have an excuse for being crap. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, Plan 9 - The Game isn't immensely crap really. But it's nowhere near as good as it should've been.

Time to zip up our lycra Reviewer Man costumes and use our amazing Nit Picking Powers to find out exactly what's going on. Ker-ziiiiip!
Rather than going for the obvious film licence approach of taking the plot of the film and scrunching it about so it fits within a dodgy platform game, Gremlin have chosen to use the making of the film as the background to the game.

You've been hired by the producer to track down the missing reels of Plan 9 From Outer Space and return them before the gala opening performance. Of course, it'd probably be better for all involved if the reels were left to rot where they lie, but hey, that wouldn't be much of a game would it? So locating the reels it is.

And for some reason they've been scattered right around the globe. Which makes your job a it more difficult than the 'rummaging in a store room for half an hour' you were looking forward to.

You start at the producers' office and, well, you've got to sort of pick up clues to allow you to find new locations and eventually the six canisters o film. Examine the surroundings, pick up objects, that sort of thing. You know the kind of stuff that's involved in these games. Elvira 2 is probably your best reference point here.

So what's wrong with that then? Weeeell, I would've enjoyed this game a whole lot more if there wasn't a sense of claustrophobia about it all. Each location is severely limited, with maybe one or two objects that you can pick up.

Plus, there are too many instances where the game decides you can't do something that you should, ideally, be able to do. For instance, there's a cigar box. Does it serve any useful purpose? How am I supposed to know? I tried to open it and was told it wasn't possible. Why?
The same thing applies to far too many other objects and people. You want to experiment and try different thing but the game just tells you that you can't. Very frustrating.

Let's face it, with those sort of restrictions, advancing through the game should be a doddle. After all, with relatively little brain power you should guess what objects to get. But the game decides to scupper you once again by having far too many instances of "sudden death".

If you don't have the right object at the right time, or if you do have the wrong object at the wrong time, it can be game over without any chance to rectify your mistake. And if you forgot to save the game then you're likely to rip huge chunks of scalp away in frustration.

Which, sadly enough, leads me on to yet another niggling little niggly thing. You can install the game with no fuss on your hard drive but when you come to save the game you have to format a disk and save to floppies. Kinda defeats the object of the hard disk really, especially when there's not much swapping involved if you do play from the original floppy disks. Grrmph.

Now I know this is all sounding a bit negative, you must think I'm wearing my "grumpy trousers" or something, but that's exactly my point. Plan 9 From Outer Space has got all the qualities it needs to be a great adventure, but there's always some little bug cropping up to spoil it for you.

LIke the fact that sometimes the game tells you that you can't carry anything else, but if you buy something or find something while searching another object it goes into your inventory without any trouble at all. And when you drop objects they vanish, so you've got to be very careful. Moan moan moan. There I go again, eh kids? IF I sound a bit narked then it's because I am. This could've - and should've - been a brilliant game. The graphics are good, there's a kitsch B-movie soundtrack and a few decent FX.

The licence has been dealt with in a fresh, and exciting way, and the humour embraces both the unintentional guffaws of the film and plenty of mickey taking at the film's expense.

It's just a pity that the game doesn't stand up very well as an actual adventure game. A sound idea, but fundamentally flawed I'm afraid.



Plan 9 From Outer Space logo

It's time to move among the grave robbers and space aliens of yet another game-of-the-film conversion and discover a very strange world indeed.

Hands up those who used to watch Worst of Hollywood on Channel Four. OK, maybe a lot of you are too young to remember, so let me elaborate. Basically, it was a series which concentrated on early sci-fi films, or 'B-movies', which came out of the film capital alongside the bigger, more expensive productions. Films with stupendous titles such as Them!, Creeping Terror and I Walked With A Zombie were among those shown, and as such the Hollywood B-Movie built up a cult status which it had not seen since the 1950s.

In 1959 a director called Edward D Wood Jr, less than famous from his earlier films such as Glen or Glenda? and Jail Bait, finished work on a film which he called his 'little jewel'. That film was Plan 9 From Outer Space, a movie which catapulted Wood to the status of a household name overnight. Not because of its superb acting or its gripping dialogue, but because it was seen by most movie-goers as the trashiest film ever made! Even now, 33 years later, it is still regarded by enthusiasts as the definitive 'Worst of Hollywood' (although some of the more recent movies starring Madonna come close).

Reward the innocent
So, as with all popular films, Plan 9 has finally made it on to the computer scene. The producers, Gremlin Graphics, have decided to keep up with tradition and create a point-and-click graphical adventure (similar in style to the recent Hook), and package it together with a video of the original film!

Surprisingly, though, the game is not based on the film at all (hooray! I hear you cry). Instead, it casts you as a small-time private eye who is hired by a producer to locate the six missing reels of the original movie - a refreshing change to the normal Film-to-game conversion.

The adventure begins in a film producer's office, where you are given your brief and $100. The studio is sparse, containing an editing suite, a bathroom and a cupboard that contains a few weird film props. Outside you may find a building site, with a man who looks like a renegade from the recent series Dinosaurs; a cafe with a waitress who spends all her time on the phone; and 'The Hub Cap', a pub with just three occupants. Before you get around to solving any puzzles, that is the entire scenario. Bit small, isn't it?

Punish the guilty
Wandering around these areas and talking to the people takes all of, oh, five minutes, and then you find yourself stuck, with seemingly nothing to do and no clues to help you. If you return to any of the characters and talk to them again, you will always receive the same replies (which rapidly become annoying). For example, attempting to talk to the man in the cafe comes up with: "He seems to be engrossed in his food", which he obviously isn't - he's smoking a cigarette!

Similarly, examining the items dotted around the adventure often results in the age-old reply: "There's nothing special about it". I remember this particular witty retort being annoying in the old Scott Adams adventures on the VIC-20 (anybody remember them?) - but to include them in a graphic adventure on a computer as powerful as the Amiga is nothing short of appalling. I mean, why include items in the game and not provide a description? Is it because there is not enough memory? Come on guys, this is 1992!

Because of these shortcomings, much of the time during the adventure is spent tearing your hair out in frustration. The few good points which the game possesses are unfortunately quite short-lived - for instance, the haunting soundtrack adds a good atmosphere but becomes repetitive fairly quickly, while the sampled effects are very good but too sparse. The graphics, though, are the one redeeming point. They are generally well done, with some nicely drawn screens and the odd bit of reasonable animation.

The humourous element of the game, while rather witty at first, quickly joins most of the other elements for a quick round of 'who's the most lame and repetitive?', and merely consists of the odd pun (such as a vampire's corpse being hungry for 'stake') and a few sarcastic comments.

Turkey stakes
It's a shame in a way, but all games like this are bound to be compared to the likes of Monkey Island, which set an extremely high standard that is difficult to match. Unfortunately, Plan 9 doesn't even come close. The authors have obviously noted the film's reputation, and attempted to produce a game which makes up for all of its shortcomings. Unfortunately, the game manages to retain all the dull, cardboard atmosphere and tarnished qualities of the original. Maybe it should just go and join its friends down in Matthew's Norfolk farms...


INTERESTING FACT NUMBER ONE
According to Harry and Michael Medved (founders of The Golden Turkey Awards in which Plan 9 won first prize), Bela Lugosi actually died before the film was released. The footage in which he is featured was intended for a completely different movie, called 'The Tomb of The Vampire', which never made it to the Box Office!

INTERESTING FACT NUMBER TWO
The flying saucers in the film were not, as people are generally led to believe, hub caps, but in fact they were paper plates sprayed silver and decorated to look like UFOs!
THE PLOT THAT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE

Without giving too much away, here is the basic story of Plan 9 - The Movie...

Plan 9 From Outer Space: The Ghoul Woman (Vampyra) and inspector Clay (Tor Johnson) in Plan 9 from outer space - The Movie

The tale begins in a graveyard where 'The Ghoul Man' (Bela Lugosi) and the imaginatively titled 'Ghoul Woman' are hanging around after being resurrected from the dead by space aliens. The pair are spotted by a couple of gravediggers who are promptly slaughtered, and the murder is reported to the local constabulary.
Inspector Clay bravely steps forward to investigate. He goes off into the mist, and is promptly turned into a zombie by the ghoulish couple. The rest of the police force alert the US Army to the problem, who discover the presence of flying saucers, and enlist all the military force of the United States to try and get rid of them.
Amid the furore a young pilot sees his young wife kidnapped by the undead Clay, and heroically decides to try and rescue himself. This is where the real fun begins.
Wooden sets, terrible screenplay, lifeless acting and unconvincing UFOs join together to make this film what it is today - completely and utterly awful! As long as you keep your tongue firmly planted in one cheek while you're watching it, though, it's great entertainment!


Plan 9 From Outer Space logo

Mehr oder weniger erfolgreiche Lizenzumsetzungen von mehr oder weniger erfolgreichen Movies sind ja längst eine alltägliche Angelegenheit - was aber mag dabei herauskommen, wenn sich eine respektable Company wie Gremlin den schlechtesten Film aller Zeiten vornimmt?

Natürlich eins der komischsten Adventures aller Zeiten, was den sonst? Die Vorlage gilt zurecht als Cineasten-Leckerbissen, von der Story über die Akteure bis hin zur Ausstattung war bei diesem Trash-Klassiker von 1959 wirklich alles herrlich daneben! Um zu verstehen, wie gut es Gremlin hier gelungen ist, das Feeling von Edward Woods Schauer-Streifen einzufangen, werden wir Euch ein paar tiefere Einblicke in sein Meisterwerk nicht ersparen können.

Die Geschichte dreht sich um eine wahrhaft bemitleidenswerte Alien-Invasion. Bereits achtmal haben die Außerirdischen vergeblich versucht, die Erde zu erobern, es wollte sie bislang aber einfach niemand zur Kenntnis nehmen. Damit Schmach nun endlich ein Ende hat, greift man zum furchterregenden Plan 9 - die Entweckung der Toten steht an!

Die Frage ist nur, ob sich mit drei popeligen Pseudo-Zombies vom Landfriedhof wirklich die Welt aus den Angeln heben läßt? Nun, tatsächlich reichte es nicht mal, um das wenig verwöhnte Kinopublikum der 50er Jahre zu überzeugen, einzig die Weltenretter um den heldenhaften Piloten Jeff Trent sind mit Feuereifer bei der Sache.

Gäbe es einen Oskar für das sparsamste Requisiten-Recycling, Plan 9 hätte gleich zwei davon verdient: Nahezu dieselbe (Null-) Möblierung verunziert das Alien-Schiff, Trents Flugzeug und Wohnung, am Friedhof hat es gerade noch für wackelige Papp-Grabsteine gereicht. Wirkliche Berühmtheit erlangte das Machwerk aber, weil der als Dracula-Mime bekannte Hauptdarsteller Bela Lugosi während der Dreharbeiten unerwartet verstarb und daher über weite Teile des Streifens von einem anderen Schauspieler ersetzt würde.

Leider war der gute Mann zumindest einen Kopf größer als Bela, da half es natürlich wenig, daß er sich andauernd ein Cape vors Gesicht hielt! All das (und noch viel mehr) ist deshalb so witzig, weil es die Crew ganz offensichtlich bierernst mit diesem Film gemeint hat - im Vergleich zur versofteten Version.

Unter den Händen von Gremlins Digi-Magier geriet die Geschichte zu einer einzigen Verhohnepiepelung voller schauriger Friedhöfe, "erpflockter" Vampire und sonstiger Ausdrucksformen angelsächsischen Humors. Dabei geht es hier an sich um ganz andere Dinge: Der Streifen ist nämlich schon längst abgedreht, nur leider kamen dem Produzenten fünf der insgesamt sechs Filmrollen abhanden. Folglich werdet Ihr beauftragt, den Plunder gegen coole Kohle wieder herbeizuschaffen.

Den Job sollte allerdings nur akzeptieren, wer wirklich bereit ist, sich scheckig zu lachen; bissige Bemerkungen werden hier nämlich gleich und groß serviert! Ein gutes Beispiel für die feinsinnige Ironie des Games wäre auch, daß in Anlehnung an die Schwächen der Zelluloid-Vorlage der ewig gleiche Fettwanst in den verschiedensten Rollen aufmacht - vom Filmproduzent über einen Barkeeper bis hin zum Gorilla des amerikanischen Präsidenten ist dieser Bursche allen Sätteln gewachsen. Vor lauter Grinsen über dieses Feuerwerk an Gags könnte man glatt vergessen, daß wir es letztlich doch mit einem "normalen" Adventure zu tun haben, wo es natürlich auch allerlei Rätsel zu knacken gibt.

Ein nicht allzugroßes Fenster zeigt dem Bildschirm-Abenteuer zu diesem Zweck hübsche und manchmal wirklich super-realistisch animierte Bilder der Mitwirkenden bzw. Räume, welche dann bequem mit der Maus beklickt werden können. Zusammen mit dem eher schmalen und ebenfalls per Nagetier zugänglichen Befehlsmenü hat man es so mit einer handlichen und absolut problemlos funktionierenden Steuerungsmethode zu tun.

Ja, nicht einmal um eventuell übersehene Ausgänge braucht sich der Spieler zu sorgen, denn eine Windrose läßt stets alle verfügbaren Marschrichtungen aufleuchten. Und das sind insgesamt nicht wenige, denn das Programm ist ganz hübsch umfangreich. Anfänglich sind zwar nur die Büros der Filmcompany und ein Stück Straße samt zweier Kneipen zugänglich, im Zuge der Nachforschungen stößt man jedoch auf neue Adressen, die immer weiter die Stadt hineinführen und per Taxi angesteuert werden.

Schließlich geht es sogar mit dem Düsenjet in die weite Welt hinaus - Rio, Australien oder Hong Kong sind weitere Stationen der fußnagelsträubenden Jagd nach den verschollenen Filmrollen.

Was Präsentation und Technik angeht, bliebe eigentlich nur noch das Schick animierte Intro, die zweieinhalb Minuten animierte digitalisierter Filmsequenzen während des Spiels und der Sound zu erwähnen. Tja, was soll man sagen: Selten hat ein dezenter Keuchhusten oder nervendes Rasseln von Telefonen echter geklungen. Zudem werden die Audio-Fans während der Arbeit einer nett lauschigen Hintergrundmusik versorgt, keine Kritik von dieser Seite also.

Sicher, die Rätsel dieses Chaos-Adventures bieten wenig mehr als die genretypische Schnitzeljagd nach benötigten Gegenständen (Schlüssel, Kreditkarte, Adressen...), aber Stimmung und Humor sind einfach göttlich. Und falls das für Euch nicht Grund genug sein sollte: Der Packung liegt ein Video des Original-Films bei, sogar mit deutschen Untertiteln! (jn)



Plan 9 From Outer Space logo

Those film licence games - doncha love 'em? This is one with a major difference - the original movie was a turkey.

This game's got a problem. In fact, it's got lots of problems. But there's one problem that's more problematic than the other problems, which aren't so much problems in themselves, but spin-offs from the main problem. Depending on how you look at it, Plan 9 From Outer Space (the film) could be a delightfully disastrous movie - the sort of film you'll watch over and over again because it's so cringingly bad.

Alternatively, it's an abominable heap of celluloid that should be avoided at all costs, despite its supposed novelty value. Personally, I subscribe to the latter view - it's an absolutely god-awful film and not worth the video-tape it's supplied on.

Whatever you think, Plan 9 is a terrible film, and here comes the game's problem. If the Plan 9 game is bad, is it because it's a faithful recreation of the film's supposedly brilliant ineptitude, or is it bad because, er it's simply a bad game. It's not a particularly hard philosophical nut to crack, but it's worth taking a look at the evidence before the prisoner is taken out and hanged.

Taking Plan 9 at the most superficial level, you'd expect it to be an adventure of some substance. The game's presentation is okay, there's a reasonably slick interface and a clear inventory list, but the action is squeezed into a window that barely covers a third of the screen.

Moving from one location to another is a simple matter of clicking on a door, or on the side of the window. Don't expect anything as sophisticated as scrolling scenery or multi-screen locations, the Plan 9 world is entirely made up of disjointed single screens.


The action barely covers a third of the screen

To start with it's very disorientating - you enter a halfway, click to go through the door at the opposite end of the corridor and you end up back where you started. It's crazy.

"But wait a minute," I hear thousands of Plan 9 film aficionados cry, "that's because the directing in the film was so bad, there was no continuity and you couldn't tell whether the characters were coming or going."

No it's not. It's because it's a bad game. The disparate locations don't gel together to create a cohesive or believable game world, and while such vagaries be lauded in the worst film of all time, it's not okay when you have to pay £30 for the disappointment of experiencing it.

Moving swiftly on to the plot. Just as the locations have no connection, the plot has no logical thread to hold it together. Inane conversations and a haphazard jumble of objects are all that you need to progress rapid through the dismally dull adventure.

You start at Cheapflik Studios, and a quick wander round the bar and diner reveals a few other locations to visit. Trott off to the graveyard, examine Bela Lugosi's body and you'll find his house key. Skank over to Bela's Gothic mansion -s o big that inside there are only three rooms, one of which is the hallway - and you find a credit card behind a moose-head trophy. Yeah, right. A really sensible place to hide it.


The music sounds like a moose with a bad case of wind

A flyer on the table gives the address of the local shopping mall. Wander over there and you can buy a scary mask and a spade. Examine the mask and there's a small key. Go up to the bank, give the key to the clerk and you're shown a safe-deposit box. Inside you find the first reel of film. Back up to the graveyard, dig up a grave and - hey presto! - there's the second reel.

You're only going through the motions of playing an adventure game, you haven't even started thinking about what you're doing, and you're already a third of the way through. To make matters worse, all this only takes an hour.

Back to the Plan 9 film fans. "But the film's plot was awful so the game's got to have a terrible plot." A terrible plot would be bearable. But a mishmash of objects and conversations, cobbled together in an indiscriminate fashion, just isn't good enough when it comes to a full-priced adventure game. If you've experienced the beautifully crafted stories of Lure Of The Temptress and Monkey Island 2, you'll despair at Plan 9.

And then there's the music and sound effects. Don't hold your breath, expecting Dolby Stereo Surround Sound and other such cinematic delights. The game's music sounds like the aforementioned moose with a bad case of wind, and the dismal sound effects only occasionally punctuate this flabby flatulence.

"But they weren't any good in the film, so it's great that the sound effects and music are appropriately awful in the game." This 'brilliant badness' argument is wearing a bit thin now isn't it? The music is terrible and the sound effects are pretty awful as well. That's it. No arguments. No excuses. No justifications.

And that's Plan 9 From Outer Space all round. Awful film, slightly improved, but still pretty pathetic, game. Connoisseurs of all things terrible will love it. They'll revel in its dismal plot, the dodgy bits of film footage, and the sad graphics and sound effects. (And they're welcome to it). The rest of us, on the other hand, will have plenty of better things to spend thirty five of our hard earned quid on.


THERE'S NOT SUCH THING AS A FREE PLAN 9 VIDEO

Amiga games from Gremlin retail for aound £25.99 (Harlequin, Lotus II, Space Crusade), with Utopia coming in at £29.99. So when you're asked to pay £34.99 for Plan 9, you begin to wonder whether the 'free' Plan 9 video isn't as 'free' as it might have been.
In the game you have to find and splice together six short sequences from the film, but when they're shown, the frame rate is appallingly slow and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were watching a slide show. And there aren't even any sound effects (or anything else for that matter) to spice it up. You've been forced to buy the wretched video anyway, so why do you need to watch the dreadful digitised clips on your Amiga?


Plan 9 From Outer Space logo

THE ULTIMATE TURKEY
Widely regarded as THE worst film of all time, Plan 9 From Outer Space is perfect for a game adaptation. Which leads me to ask: what went wrong?

What pretended to the film's plot featured a flying saucer crash-landing on Earth. Whilst they awaited its repair, the fiendish crew created a zombie (played by Swedish weight-lifter Tor Johnson) who was under the control of the saucer's Commander - the seductive Vampira. As word gets round about the alien presence, the extra-terrestrials come under attack from the local army-reserves, and their glorious assaults are portrayed by World War II news-reel footage.

Likewise, adding to the film's mystique(!), a mysterious cowled figure creeps around - perhaps this suspicious stranger would have had a more prominent part in the proceedings if horror legend, Bela Lugosi, hadn't died early in the film's production (still, the show must go on)...

Unfortunately, virtually all of this mishmashed plot is lost in the game, which instead casts you as a private detective hired to track down down six reels from the film which have mysteriously disappeared - it certainly makes you wonder why anyone wants it back! IN fact, one of the few things that most of the men look like Tor Johnson's zombie character and the women resemble Vampira. Good ideas, such as role-playing, are noticeably lacking in what is one of the most disappointing licences of all time.

ALL AROUND THE WORLD
Plan 9 boils down to a very run-of-the-mill point and click adventure. The centre of the screen displays your current location, including any present objects and characters, while in the bottom-right corner is a list of available commands. These include take, drop, inventory and talk, and to use one simply click on the required deed and on the object within the display screen you wish to manipulate.

Similarly, striking up a conversation with a character offers you a multiple-choice set of questions or responses, although only one will have the desired effect. Unfortunately, though, the choices are rather obvious with the other options coming across as complete drivel.

CLEVER DICK
There are plenty of locations to explore, among which you'll find Bella Lugosi's house, Rio, a bat-infested cave, and a CIA building. When all six rells are retrieved its up to you to use your editing skills and stick them together, making the biggest turkey of a film ever - blimey, a Private Dick who doubles as a Film Editor, what a rarity!

One redeeming feature (although not redeeming enough to warrant buying the game) are the graphics. The backdrops are detailed and atmospheric, and the variations on Tor and Vampira are neat. On top of that are some very nice animated effects which help patch together the somewhat ropey atmosphere. There are also plenty of sampled sound effects, including screams and creaks, which are supposed to surprise the player, but usually just wake you up.

If Plan 9 had more to do with the film it would have fulfilled many peoples' expectations, even with its many faults. Personally, I'm highly disappointed. It's frustrating to see such a good idea wasted. This is basically a standard, and very uninspiring adventure, with little to make it stand out from the crowd. If you're after a good example of this genre, check out Elvira 2, but definitely think twice about buying this.


SPECIAL DEFECTS The dramatic conclusion of the film has the flying saucer exploding - well, burning - in mid-air. During an interview with one of the film's crew this scene was likened to 'two tin plates stuck together, covered in burning-lighter fluid, then dangled from a string'. The crew member retorted that it was no such thing - there wasn't enough cash in the budget for tin plates so they used paper ones instead.