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The Nostalgic Attic: Movie tie-in #1: Alien 3

10 March 2014

Movie tie-in #1: Alien 3

 (Mega Drive, 1993)

These days, nearly every kids film, tv show or blockbuster has some form of video game counter-part, and the vast majority of them are garbage. It's definitely not a new thing though, as film licensed games are nearly as old as the video game industry itself, and have gone hand-in-hand with every console generation since the Atari 2600 first hit the shelves. So lets try and weed out the shitty shovelware from the hidden gems as we dive into the world of movie/game tie-ins.

Alien 3 was one of the most heavily hyped films from 1992.Coming off the back of the hugely successful, genre defining previous films, it had a lot to live up to. It seemed an obvious choice for a video game to be based off it, so you know, you could lure the kiddies into your R-rated horror film. There were several different versions of Alien 3 on different consoles, but today we will be looking at the Mega Drive version.

The first thing you will notice after popping the cart in is that the game wastes zero time with setting things up. Title screen/Bam - start the game. I like how the developers chose not to bother with scrolling text explaining backstory or raison d'etre; you just get chucked straight into the action. Secondly, you will notice how little the game actually has to do with Alien 3. Sure, you play as Ripley (shaved head and all), but apart from that? You start the game fully packing a flame thrower, grenade launcher, machine gun and a shit-ton of hand grenades, unlike the film where you had no weapons. Also, there are a gazillion aliens in this, including bigger, meaner boss fights. Ok, so it seems like they took most of the cues from Aliens, but that's just fine with me. Besides, as much as I like Alien 3 the movie, I really don't think I would want to play a game that was faithful to it. I'm sure the attempted gang-rape level would have been a hoot.

So basically you are up against a timer, and must explore the industrial space station/planet surface, searching for prisoners and killing every damned creature that jumps out at you. Once you rescue all of the captives (these guys do actually look like they were based on the film, with their jail-bird clothes and shaved heads) you must find the exit for the level and escape before the time runs out. if you don't manage to rescue everyone, the exit door won't open and you will be treated to seeing all the prisoners having a chest burster emerge from them. After every three stages you have a boss fight, which is just you versus a bigger, badder, acid-spewing alien.

As mentioned, the lack of back story and the time-based missions gives the game a great arcade-like quality. You must memorise your way through the levels, crawling through tunnels and corridors, hoping a prisoner or the exit is just around the corner. On your first play through you will most likely run out of time a lot, as the timer is quite unforgiving, though never really unfair. It will have you pushing the continue button often, and you will be determined to make your way out. This type of gameplay actually makes the game worth coming back to, as you tend to forget your way around the maze-like levels after a few months.

The controls are straight forward and solid enough, though jumping both looks and feels a little odd. The weapons are good, and you have plenty of firepower to take out everything on your bug hunt. The music seems at odds with the visuals, however, with some of the tracks feeling a bit too disco to really make you feel the horror of it all. Still, the instrumentation is great for the most part, and the sound effects are decent.

Overall, this one is a keeper. I like to stick it on every now and then, and blast my way through a bunch of levels. It might not stick that closely to the film, but it doesn't need to. Alien 3 provides a solid arcade-style blaster that is worth playing through if you like the film series.

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At 11 March 2014 at 08:34 , Blogger Wes M said...

Fantastic stuff John, this is definitely the kind of thing I'd like to play - I used to love platform games, and this looks like a lot of fun... I never progressed passed the Commodore 64 but for what it’s worth I loved Bubble Bobble, Ghosts n' Goblins, Shinobi, Rainbow Islands, Robocop ("Drop it !"), Golden Axe, and many summer afternoons were spent feeding 10-penny coins to the machines at the Leisureplex, or The Gaff, as everyone in the City called it... I'm one of those people who bemoans the infiltration of Cinema by the Game Industry, and just last year, while I was sitting down enjoying Dredd, I began to get that creeping, nagging feeling that I was watching a live action platform game, and Mega City One's finest lawman made his way thru the tower block, mowing down punks with a choice of weapons, in search of the Boss. I mean, I liked Dredd, but I felt a little… conned I guess…

At 11 March 2014 at 08:50 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

You mentioned some great games there, Wes, am still a huge platform/shooter fan, so these type of games definitely appeal to me.

Strange, I never got that vibe from Dredd at all, I saw it as more an homage to the simplistic set-ups from the 80's, such as Die Hard, etc. Both Dredd and The Raid were my favorite action films from last year, and I got more of an 'old school' vibe from them than the video game feel. Saying that, Dredd was very modern in its style, and will be very much dated to this point-in-time due to certain camera techniques, etc, which in fairness to your point, probably owe a lot of modern video games.

If you never played beyond a commodore 64, then you will still probably enjoy Alien 3 if you ever get a chance to play it!

At 24 March 2014 at 09:52 , Blogger Doug Roos said...

I played this game so much. Loved it. I still remember the manual saying, "Do it for Newt." I was (still am) a crazy Aliens fan. This was the first game my brother and I got for the Sega Genesis when that system first came out in the US. And I actually beat it without any cheat codes or Game Genie. It took forever, and I'm not very good at video games or anything, but I was determined to beat it. Some of those levels are quite difficult too, just remembering which way to go to find all the cocooned prisoners, etc.

I also beat Sewer Shark on Sega CD... that freakin game...

At 25 March 2014 at 07:27 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

That's great Doug, my copy still has the box with the manual, and funnily enough, when flicking through it for this review, a bunch of cheat codes for the game genie fell out of it. Made me laugh, I don't think I ever used cheat codes back in the day, unless it was something to add blood, etc back into a game, such as Mortal Combat.

Wow, you are a braver man than me on Sewer Shark. I never had the CD add-on, but one of my friends had it recently, and me bashed out a few games. The full motion video stuff gave most of us headaches due to choppy frame rates...

At 12 June 2014 at 19:13 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I didn't play this one - I must have been between game systems at the time. Here's a breakdown of my home console history: Odyssey - single deck sit and spin the dial Pong game - no cartridges or anything; Atari 2600; Intellivision; Nintendo; Super Nintendo; long break, then Nintendo 64 just to play GoldenEye; XBox; Playstation; and now Wii just to play GoldenEye.

At 13 June 2014 at 08:57 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks for that, Craig, always good to see what others played and their habits for games. I've never played the Odyssey, though I do plan on getting my hands on one at some point. The Intellivision wasn't very popular over here, so they aren't the easiest to find anymore. I was playing games on a Spectrum 128K at that time, before we made the jump into Megadrive territory. We have pretty similar histories with consoles, though I've never owned an Xbox. I currently have nearly every console released since the NES, though my 'current generation' machine is the WiiU, which I absolutely love!


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