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Alien Review

Developer: Fox Video Games Publisher: Fox Video Games
Release Date: 1982 Also On:

Hmm, what have we here? At first glance, what appears to be merely one of the thousands of Pac-Man clones ends up being pretty cool. Alien, loosely based off of the classic late-70s sci-fi masterpiece, is a great addition to the Atari 2600 library, in my opinion, and a game that desrves a little more attention, primarily because it’s the best thing on the system to match what Pac-Man should have been.

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Graphically, not too much new here. Alien features a labyrinth very similar to Pac-Man with pretty much the same features. Wafers are now ‘alien eggs’ and power pellets have become ‘pulsars’, whatever that means. Instead of Ripley, you control a nameless human who has to run around collecting the eggs and such while avoiding the aliens. More than one, so it obviously goes against the actual film, but in spite of the limited graphics they seem to have pulled off the look fairly well. The general feel of Alien is kind of dark due to the colorations, so pretty cool there. Could have done without making the aliens the same color as the Pac-Man ghosts though. Come on, don’t make it that obvious. Overall though, the graphics do their job and the warping effect when you or an alien goes off the screen is novel.

As for the sound, Alien features traditional 2600 sounds that fit the action. You have the incessant stomping effect as you pick up eggs and so forth. My only complaint is that this game would have been really cool if they had some sort of eerie track over the whole thing. As it stands it pretty much just sounds like Pac-Man. You could close your eyes and easily get confused, but at least the sound isn’t bad. Just not very original.

So, Alien is pretty much just like Pac-Man. Collect all the alien eggs and pulsars, which only appear one at a time, on each level and you get a bonus round, move on to the next level, and repeat until you lose all your lives. Pretty standard other than the one pulsar thing. Where this game is cool is in the details. First off, in addition to the usual bonus items, you have the ability to gather and use flamethrowers. They have a limited duration so they need to be used wisely. When you use them, they’ll make aliens turn around or become immobile. So, if you’re caught between two you can put the flame on to save your skin. Nice touch, and it follows the film somewhat while adding some strategy. You have a bonus round that’s basically like Freeway with aliens, but also you can set the general difficulty so the aliens move in a fixed pattern or a totally random pattern. This is something lacking from the various Pac-Man games on the 2600, which is a shame, but thank Alien for doing it right. I have to tell you, the random pattern is quite a challenge for even the most seasoned gamer. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard in many ways. Check it out:

Alien, unfortunately, can hardly be called creative. It’s as close to Pac-Man as you could get without getting sued and only a few details here and there, albeit ones that are important to play, have been added. The flamethrower was a nice touch as was the upping of the challenge, but a few other gimmicks and a cool soundtrack would have made it a lot better.

Still, the one thing about Alien is it’s got good length. Perfect type of arcade-style, sit-down-for-an-hour-or-ten-minutes type of game. In addition, I have to say I’ve come back to this a number of times because of the ease of play, and, more importantly, it’s really the closest thing to real Pac-Man on the Atari 2600, with extra coolness. Don’t forget, the Pac-Man we actually got was far from the original, so it’s nice to have something that fills the void but yet isn’t entirely Pac-Man since the other games (Ms. Pac-Man or Jr. Pac-Man) really don’t cut it either. I’ll give that to Alien.

Alien is a nice little title for the 2600. Sure, it’s not very original in terms of its basics, it doesn’t have a cool soundtrack like you’d expect, and the gameplay is standard Pac-Man fare, but it’s got this weird draw. See, in addition to the minor additions and changes to play, Alien is really the only game for the Atari 2600 that captures the feel of the original Pac-Man and its various spawnings. So, to me, the game is enjoyable, but it’s not necessarily because of what the programmers put together here. It’s mainly because they did the right thing when no one else did! So, if you’re looking for a proper Pac-Man title for the 2600 with some extra features to enhance play that make it more challenging, give Alien a look.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.3
Written by Stan Review Guide