Does anyone remember Alien for the Amstrad CPC464 and the ZX Spectrum? The game started when a random member of the crew (not always Kane) gets subjected to chestbuster hell and the alien starts chewing on the furniture. You take control over the other six members of the crew and have to figure out a way to dispose of the slimy menace. As you individually move them around the Nostromo, you can pick up weapons and items like the laser pistol and the incinerator.
Whilst these weapons could possibly ward off the alien during an attack, they wouldn’t actually be able to kill it. The most obvious strategies for alien extermination would be to either lure it into the airlock and ‘blow it the fuck out into space’, or to set the ship’s self destruct and hightail it in the shuttle. The shuttle, however, could only play host to three crew members and maliciously leaving the other three behind to burn was a big no-no in the post game evaluations.
Just like in the movie, one of the crew was secretly an android intent on protecting the alien (*spoiler alert*… But then if you haven’t seen alien, WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 32 YEARS!?). This android (again, not always Ash) would sometimes attack other members of the crew, usually after their numbers had dwindled due to being monster munched.
Speaking about getting monster munched, the alien attack in this game is terrifying! You spend the entire time in silence looking at the ship’s blueprint, moving stick-figures around while peering at text boxes. When the alien attacks, the screen goes black, urgent chip tunes kick in and the alien appears in full 8-bit glory, gnashing and clawing at the screen. Most of the time this sight means death and inspires panicked mashing of the ‘Get the Fuck Outta There!’ button.
Another very interesting element of Alien was the emotional well-being of the crew. If you armed them or kept them together in a group, they would merely be ‘uneasy’. If you sent them off alone they might become ‘nervous’, ‘paranoid’ or ‘shaken’. If you let them discover the bodies of their fellow shipmates, they would usually become ‘broken’. When they hit this rock bottom, they would often disobey orders and flee in random directions.
Alien was a classic game that was survival horror before the genre even existed. The threadbare graphics didn’t matter because your imagination did all the work. You could almost see all those dank, dark tunnels in your head. You could almost hear the constant thrum of the Nostromo’s engines, smell the deep taint of oil and maybe even catch Ridley Scott berating Harrisson Ford for being a whiny crybaby on the set of Bladerunner.