Alien Trilogy

Okay, so I cheated. Turns out you can backdate posts. Who knew? Regardless, it satisfies my sense of tidiness. So, today’s offering is a game I have fond memories of from my pre-teens. It used to scare the shit out of me. I remember inching forward along those dark corridors waiting for a blip to appear on my radar so I could scoot back to the starting hatch where it was light and I could see things. (Only to find the hatch was not re-openable and by then you’ve got a hugger on your back.) Considering how fond I am of the horror genre, I rarely manage to stay at it for long periods of time. I find it very tiring; probably because when I finally put a game down I have to wait twenty minutes for all my muscles to un-tense again.

01 Cover shot

Anyway, yeah, so – Alien Trilogy. I have fond memories, but as I said, not very extensive memories. And I feel it is appropriate to point out, at this juncture, that I only managed to play this game through sheer bloody-mindedness since Ninja-Kitty does not approve of this venture. This is her unimpressed face:

02 Ninja kitty is unimpressed

First thing to say is that this game has got a great soundtrack. So great that I went and hunted it down to use as background music while writing or playing TT games. And yet, despite that, as I’m settling down to play what I actually find myself humming is the theme tune to another old favourite: Battle Isle’s Incubation – I guess I associate the two, possibly partly because I first encountered them around the same time (around 1997 I think)  and also because they have quite a similar aesthetic.

FPS is not my forte, generally. I’m much better when I can take my time, use tactics and sniping and the like. This is not a game where you can do that. Not only do xenomorphs routinely jump out on you, either from pipework and vents in the walls, or round corners, or from right behind doors you just opened but also their movements are erratic, forcing you to swing back and forth without a targeting system in order to not waste ammo and generally not die. Face-huggers are annoying enough, but thankfully the first time you meet a warrior, it’s on the right side of a load of explosive barrels.

03 First warrior

I remember that there are secret areas on the levels in this game and so despite the fact the first map only takes about ten minutes to race through, kill everything and pick up all the loot, I spend another five minutes doing a second circuit in case I’ve missed something.

What I fail to remember, more fool me, is that shooting the shit out of things in the middle of a corridor is akin to shooting yourself in the foot — since those bodies bleed acid and don’t vanish, and on anything but the easiest mode, acid hurts. So here’s a hot tip from me: don’t do what I did and kill your xenomorphs all over the shop. Lure them all to two or three places, if you can, and if you can’t, lure them to corners to shoot ’em. Unless, of course, you don’t care too much about playing a perfect game. Derm-patches and first aid kits aren’t in short supply on the lower levels but you’ll want to get into good habits for later on.

04 Acid burns

Now; this level round-up looks pretty satisfying, but my smugness is short-lived because on a first playthrough, that’s the only time I’m gonna be getting that score.

05 Mission 1 Complete

Charging smugly on regardless, satisfied that I have not, in fact, managed to miss a secret area on the first level (there is not one) I pause halfway through my running and gunning in the second level to snap this: secret areas, it turns out, are actually not so secret in this game. Even the map has a dead giveaway on it, in the form of suspicious square-cornered corridors. (Like my little hand-scrawled arrow? :D)

06 Secrets

That gap on the lower left is the first place I’m forced to deal with any gauntlet-like mechanics — in this game it tends to be jets of steam or similar, but if you’re striving for perfect scores, you need to pick up absolutely everything and shoot absolutely everything. The level I’ve never managed to master is the grab’n’go armoury one. (There may well be more later.) 60 seconds in which to load up for bear. There are no saves in this game, only level passwords some 20ish characters long. I can’t be doing with that nonsense.

09 Supermarket sweep

This remind anyone else of Supermarket Sweep? >.>

Soon I’m upgraded to killing humans too who are much more straightforward to take down and don’t dart about like craneflies or bleed acid. Bonus! Also as attractive a prospect as a swimming pool filled with face-huggers isn’t, the lack of toggle integration in this game means you pretty much need to be on the same level as something to shoot it. So I wade in, scream like a girl, get a hugger to the head which comes with a lovely full-screen animation of a many-legged orange xeno humping your face, and wade back out with more armour and less dignity than I had a minute ago.

10 Swimming with the fishies

From here, though, I’ll be honest — things start to go pretty swiftly downhill. Enemies are becoming more plentiful as ammo becomes less so and though pistol rounds are aplenty, you just can’t take down warriors with them. Within a couple of levels, my score is dropping dramatically, and I’m in a pretty poor state. At the very least, this is further than I ever got when I was a little’un. And I’ve only screamed or squawked or jumped at xenos twice.

Okay. Three times.

12 Game over

When all my shotgun ammo and flamethrower ammo is gone and I’m finally running around a very low lit level with four hit points and a pistol, I pretty much know that this is the end. And just to really stick the boot in — how do I die? A lowly facehugger. I would totally have taken a shot of the final animation in which one of those little buggers kills you, but I was too busy swearing and covering my eyes.