Thursday, January 25, 2018

Alien Thing


Alien Thing was released late in the ST's life by 999 Software for Top Byte and if you've ever played Alien Syndrome, Gauntlet or Storm then you'll know exactly what to expect from this overhead shoot 'em up set in space. It's the same old story: heading for Earth is a distant spaceship filled to the brim with a vicious alien hoard who are hungry for our blood. It's time to tool-up, sneak onboard, and begin mercilessly killing anything that looks like it's gonna bite.

   

Their spaceship is split into eleven levels with each requiring a particular mission to be completed. The first starts off simple (kill everything!!) with later missions being far more complex and if you happen to fail then you are immediately sent straight back to the beginning. This ship is huge, yet with a clear definition in design, so you won't lose your bearings. Almost every corridor has some kind of doorway which can be opened, one way or another. Key cards are a good idea and these can usually be found hidden inside the blue cabinets - along with other bonuses like a 1UP and ammo. However, use these cards wisely because not every door needs to be immediately opened...

Joystick controls are excellent and responsive so it's easy navigating this ship, even if I can oddly move quicker than the monsters! These beasts are everywhere - so stay frosty - because they can withstand several hits before you turn them into a splattered mess. Their eggs must be quickly blown-up before a new alien is born and pops-out to eat you! Some leave behind pools of poisonous slime and this need to be destroyed before you are able to pass. Each of your weapons has a varying level of effectiveness and the flamethrower is awesome so try searching the orange cabinets for yours. However, I'm not fresh on the laser which needs a recharge far too frequently for my liking.

  • I personally feel Alien Thing to be well-balanced but hardcore gamers might consider the revamped "Expert Edition". However, I found the changes made it ridiculously difficult thus frustrating.
  • The Director's Cut is the sequel that was due to be released in 1997. It featured a change in the visual perspective, complex missions, new enemies, and lots of DMA enhanced sound effects. A three-level demo is available but I'm unsure whether it was ever officially released. Can anyone help? Thanks.

   
Alien Thing on the left and the Expert Edition on the right. (click both pics)
It's an example of the differences: map changes, fewer items, pools of gunk and more.

The graphics are nicely drawn and I like the contrast of vivid colours against the spaceship's metallic build. The near-luminous green aliens really do stand out which works so well, even if they do move like squashed spiders! Sadly, the scrolling could be smoother so it's disappointing the ST'e hardware wasn't used to full effect. Sound effects might be crude but they're genuinely entertaining when an alien dies - almost as much as our own pitiful death cry! On an STFM the quality is quite fuzzy but on the STe they have put the DMA coprocessor to use for greater clarity.

Nothing is perfect and Alien Thing provided me with enough to whine about - like when a corridor is blocked by a pool of slime and it's impossible to destroy it because it's too close to the wall. Also, one touch of this slime annoyingly means instant death! Plus it's silly having one sound effect when a shot hits the wall, regardless of the weapon...

   

My moaning aside, Alien Thing is a nice take on the aliens scenario with a nifty balance of arcade-style action, exploration, and strategical thinking which is all thanks to a simple design and challenging missions. I love this game so stop your grinnin' and drop your linen because this is one seriously enjoyable and addictive shoot 'em up!!

LINKS

 - I have bundled together all "three" Alien Thing games to download off my Dropbox.
 - The level password system is genius: (press the "/?" key on the main menu)
           PARTY,  WORK,  LARD,  WHEEE,  HELLO,  HARD,  GOSH,  NIGHT,  PEN,  RULER