32-Bit, gaming, Sega Saturn

Tokyochuchu on: Amok

 

Does anyone out there remember the 1996 Playstation, Saturn & PC title Amok? For those who remain blissfully unaware, Amok was a third-person mech shooter. Although mech shooters were two-a-penny in the mid nineties, Amok tried to stand out from the crowd by adding an amphibious element to the proceedings. When on land the mech would be in the standard AT-ST style but when in the water it would transform into a big submersible frog. This presumably made it easier to kill enemies as they’d be busy pissing themselves laughing at your ‘frog-mobile’ whilst you were getting missile lock.

The plot of Amok was the usual half baked crap. Something about a rebel fight against corrupt dictatorzzzzzzz… Basically speaking, Amok was a level-based arcade shooter which means no-one gave a tea-bagging nun about the plot, only caring about where the next sumbitch to be gibbed was hiding at. Objectives in the game followed the normal path of the day; ‘take out three shield generator pylons and then take out whatever they were shielding’ or; ‘escort this train from A to B and make sure it doesn’t get blown up’. Sometimes the game would shock you by stretching to; ‘make sure you blow up this train and it’s escorts’!!!

As you may have gathered from my tone, Amok was certainly not perfect. In fact it had a myriad of annoying flaws. Firstly, it suffered almost all of the graphical failings of the 32bit era; nasty pixelation of close-up objects, a poor draw distance masked by ‘fog’ and plenty of pop-up and fade-in. Add to that it’s crippling difficulty and a very short campaign and you’re probably left wondering why I’m even bringing up such an obvious gaming turd.

The reason Amok is remembered so fondly is down to it’s one saving grace; you could play the entire campaign in split-screen two player co-op. That might be commonplace now, but back in ’96 it was a real rarity. That changed Amok from something that I would’ve shelved very quickly into a nostalgically flawed title that I nether-the-less sank a shit-ton of hours into with my brother. God bless your crappy, unoriginal, graphically nauseating ass, Amok… We loved you in our own sick way!

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8-Bit, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Alien (CPC464)

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.

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Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Alien movie games

Do you love the Alien movies? I certainly do. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ is my favorite movie of all time! Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ would probably make it into my top thirty too. I also harbor some love for his recent ‘Prometheus’. And I also harbor a small, easily concealable pistol just in case I ever meet the directors of ‘AvP2: Requiem’… But that’s a different story.

Anyway, with Aliens: Colonial Marines now scaling ‘Alien Resurrection’ heights of critical acclaim, it’s apt time to look back at some of the Alien video games of distant past. These games are in (loose) chronological order. So without further ado, “Let’s pack ’em in! Get in there!”

ALIEN

Alien on the ZX Spectrum was kind of like an 8-bit Day Z. You had control of the Nostromo’s crew (which were represented by stick figures) and had to figure (pun! pun!) out how to dispose of the alien with only the contents of the ship to help you. I always defaulted to luring the alien into the airlock and ‘blasting it the fuck out into space’. Which was Dallas’ original plan in the movie… And the general plan of Alien3 (trade airlock for furnace) now that I think about it. Anyway, it was a great game. I won’t dwell on it further as I plan to devote an entire blog to it at a later date.

*You’re in my seat. Can I have it please?*

ALIENS: THE ARCADE GAME

Imagine Contra but with Aliens. Not much to say beyond that, really. The only reason I’m even aware of this game is because I stumbled upon it in the back of a musty English pub whilst on holiday. I was ten years old and the idea of an Aliens arcade game existing blew my tiny mind! I sank almost my entire holiday pocket-money budget into this badboy. My parents must have wondered why I was so keen on going back to that smelly old pub. Of course, my father didn’t mind so much… Stupid alcoholic absentee prick!

*Damn, this floor is freezing!*

ALIEN 3

There were at least three different versions of Alien3 that I can think of. None of which bore any resemblance to the movie. The first was an ‘on-rails’ arcade light-gun shooter. The graphics of the game were really good for it’s time and the game always proved to be a fun diversion after my swimming class (it was the only arcade machine in the pool. Obviously not literally in the pool, as that would’ve been really fucking dangerous). Uh… It would still¬† probably make for a fun Wii title.

The other Alien3 games were on the home consoles. The Genesis version was an ‘against-the-clock’ style dash around a “dark fucking maze” trying to rescue stranded prisoners. I personally never found the game to be compelling (being hounded by time; not a fun mechanic). The SNES version, however, was pretty great! It had some nice adventure elements to it that saw you exploring freely and completing mission objectives in any order you wanted (not a common thing back then). The run and gun action was also fun with the pulse rifle, flamethrower and grenade launcher all mapped to different buttons for quick use without cumbersome menus. Despite the later ‘Infestation’ title (see the further down the list), I still think SNES Alien3 remains the best 2D Alien game.

*It’s alright to say ‘shit’. It ain’t against god*

ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR (SNES & arcade version)

Following on the back of the great graphic novel and excellent SNES Alien3 title, the SNES Aliens versus Predator game was near guaranteed to be something fantastic! It was shit. Really, really, really shit. It was like a very slooooow Final Fight but with all the decent moves and graphics cut out. It is still the worst Alien related game to ever see the light of day. The arcade version was a bit better. That game was more akin to The Simpsons or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade titles and featured Scwartzenegger looking dudes (and predators) stomping around in powerloaders (the dudes, not the predartors… Although a predator in a powerloader would be AWESOME), beating the shit out of anything even vaguely alien shaped. Get that shit up on PSN, STAT!

*Like you never fucked a robot before*

ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR (Atari Jaguar)

I traded in a SNES with 25 classic games to get an Atari Jaguar. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK. In hindsight, that might have been a mistake. But the Jaguar’s best game was Alien versus Predator (in new-fangled FPS format!), so how could my Aliens addled mind have resisted?! This game was great for it’s time, adding adventure elements to the carbon-copy Doom formula. Offing xenos with a shotgun in 3D was almost worth that extortionate trade-in! The game also gave you three campaigns to play, which was unique at the time. Of note was the Alien’s life mechanic; The Alien was very easily killed (“How do we kill it Ash?” “You can’t”) so you needed a lot of backup lives. These were procured by cocooning hapless marines with a special attack combo. I always thought that was a cool idea which was then implemented in later games by… Absolutely no-one. Booooo!

*I ain’t ‘ere to be your friend. I’m ‘ere to make money*

ALIEN TRILOGY

Alien Trilogy for Playstation and Saturn was a prototypical example of a ‘Doom-clone’. You walked around the level pressing switches and blasting enemies (apparently geriatric aliens that shuffle around at a snails pace) until you reached the exit point. Despite the lack of imagination, decent A.I, good draw distances or any hint of the movie ‘Alien’, Alien Trilogy was actually a fun game that I remember fondly. Would I like to go back and replay it now, I hear you ask? Fuck no!!

*We’re a team and there’s nothing to worry about. We come here and we’re gonna conquer and we’re gonna get some. Is that understood? We are going to get some. ON THE READY LINE!*

ALIEN RESURRECTION

With the movie being utter crap, my expectation for the Alien Resurrection tie-in game on Playstation was very low. In a bizarre turnaround, the game was excellent! It nailed the set design and weaponry of the film perfectly. Better still; for the first time ever the aliens actually moved like they should. They ran on ceilings, pounced from walls and sprang from dark corners. The game also had a great line in setting up staged, pant-wetting scares. Because the aliens were so overpowered, hard to shoot and you had very little ammo of which to make mistakes with, the game became super intense and scary. In fact, there are only two games in history that have truly frightened me to the point of being nearly debilitated. One is Dead Space and the other is Alien Resurrection. Well done to those devs! You owe me new underwear!

*Look! It thinks you’re it’s mother!*

ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR 1 & 2 (PC)

The first Aliens versus Predator game on the PC did a good job of adapting Half-Life’s template to the world of Aliens. The game once again featured three campaigns and was the first to introduce the player to the alien’s wall-crawling ability. The narrative was stronger than past games, too (even if the acting was laughably crap). That said, it was totally, utterly, monumentally outclassed by it’s sequel. Aliens versus Predator 2 did everything exactly right. The story and acting was stronger, the graphics were better and the set-pieces were far more memorable. But the very best thing about Aliens versus Predator 2 was the multiplayer. The game managed to deliver perfect maps and controls while innovating a brilliant class system that balanced matches perfectly. This was a game that remained popular and was played online for years and years after it’s release. Although gaming progress has marched on, there’s certainly an argument to be made for Aliens versus Predator 2 remaining the best Aliens related game ever made. Unlike the similarly titled movie. Of which every copy should be rounded up and buried in the dessert, Atari ET style. “Hey, let’s go down to the sewers and try to find my car keys!” WHAT THE FUCK!?

*I want an answer not an explanation!*

ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR: EXTERMINATION

Extermination was a weird squad based RTS. Kudos to the developer for trying something other than a first person shooter with the license, but jeez… This game sucked more than George Micheal in a bathroom stall. There was no strategy involved at all (a pretty bad trait for a Real Time Stategy game). You just wandered around the map, spamming the cursor over enemies until they exploded. And that was it. This was about as much fun as jamming your dick into a potato peeler. Hmmm… On second thoughts, I retract that. Please kids, if it comes down to a choice between playing Extinction or a potato peeler circumcision, do the right thing; Fuck that peeler good, coz this game blows!

*Begging your pardon sir but fuck you!*

ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR (PS3 / 360)

I’m getting really sick of typing ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR in bold caps again and again. Uh… Much like the current Colonial Marines title, the current generation AvP game (see what did there? Yes for abbreviations, motherfucker!) suffered from mass critical backlash. It roughly followed the same format of the prior PC Aliens versus Predator (Nnnng) but without properly updating the mechanics. No iron sights?¬†No kill-streaks? No perks or meaningful multiplayer leveling? The critics were all over the game because of it’s antiquity. Or maybe just because it wasn’t Call of Duty. Not every game needs fucking iron sights, you know! Whatever, I enjoyed this AvP game. The alien campaign was the best one of it’s type. It was a lot of fun to stealth around and slaughter marines before darting back into the shadows. The Predator missions were fun too, with the new graphic kill sequences becoming a gory highlight. The marine campaign showed the most age but it was still a fun romp through the Aliens universe. Overall, this AvP was decent but not quite up to standard with it’s triple-A FPS peers.

*Mister Aaron, get that foolish woman back to the infirmary at once!*

ALIENS: INFESTATION

Infestation was a beautifully animated side-scrolling shooter. The life mechanic was pretty awesome. You had a finite number of marines, all of whom had different situational dialogue and personalities. When they died, they were gone forever. This led to a lot of backtracking to med-packs in order to heal your favorite marines! There was obviously a lot of love poured into this game but as much as I wanted to love it, I just couldn’t. The reason for this was the difficulty level. It was frustratingly, cripplingly, impossibly difficult! Toward the end of the game, I found myself replaying and replaying and replazzzzzzzzzzz… Basically, I gave up. Yes, I’m going to gamer hell. Speaking of which, that brings us to the last title on this list.

*Come on, come on you bastard! Come on you too! Oh, you want some of this? Fuck you!*

ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a disappointing game. There are some good things about this title however. The sound design and general art direction hits Jame’s Cameron’s masterpiece directly on the head. The game has been made with an obvious love of it’s source material; there are a lot of little touches and references that will bring a smile to any Alien fan’s lips. Agonizingly, a few of the game’s levels (most notably an unarmed stealth section and any mission that takes you through the alien derelict) are excellent and display potential that the game should’ve capitalized on.

Unfortunately, Aliens: Colonial Marines is mired with faults. First are the famously bad graphics. More often than not, this looks like an upscaled PS2 game or a PS3 launch title at best. There is no excuse for such a shoddy looking game this late in a console generation. The plot is a complete disaster too. Considered cannon by 20th Century Fox, it’s guaranteed to make any true Aliens fan groan with dissatisfaction. Jame’s Cameron must be spinning in his grave… And he’s not even dead!

Worst of all, though, is the unbelievably bad A.I. Simply put, there is none. You can shoot an enemy in the groin and he won’t make for cover. He’ll just stand there like a dumb fence post. And as for the Alien queen! My experience of one boss battle was the queen just standing still in the center of the map, while I pumped every bit of ammo I had into her (ineffectually, I might add). She didn’t attack or even move a muscle. What the hell?! So, don’t expect good boss battles here, because you won’t get them.

The last piece in the Colonial Marines puzzle is the online multiplayer. The competitive options are actually really good fun. The graphics and A.I don’t impact this portion of the game, and it’s undoubtedly good fun to launch an alien across the map and maul off a marine’s face. Likewise, it’s fun to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a buddy and stave off a bunch of aliens. Good fun, then. The story co-op makes for a decent time as well. All the faults of the single player are carried over, of course, but with a friend in tow they’re less annoying. At the very least, you can laugh at that stupid alien queen together.

So… Aliens: Colonial Marines. Fun in multiplayer or with a friend but VERY disappointing in single player.

*That is crazy! That is horseshit! They will not kill us!*

So, I hope you enjoyed this trip through Alien infested waters (best scene in Resurrection, baby!). Until next time, this is Tokyochuchu, the last survivor of my wife’s fucking awful tofu recipes, signing off.

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