Alien Syndrome – Review

Sadly, I was a bit too young to experience the heyday of the arcade. Being born in 1983, the closest arcade we had was at the Rotunda Amusement Park in Folkestone, England. My parents took me there a handful of times but mainly for the rides. We only ventured into the arcade to play a few games. I remember playing either Hang-On or Super Hang-On where my father had to help me shift my weight on the bike to steer. I also recall a clay pigeon shooting game, but we mostly stuck to playing pinball machines. By the time I began to venture into arcades on my own as a teenager, many of the games had been replaced by fruit machines. There was still a good selection of video games but my pocket money would never last as long I wished it to. Nowadays, the Rotunda has long since gone, and the nearest arcade is over 20 miles away. C’est la vie!

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Alien Syndrome is a run and gun game that can be played in single-player or two-player co-op mode. It was developed and published by Sega and released in the arcade in 1987. A year later, it would be ported to Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, NES (published by Tengen), Master System and MSX. Later ports also appear on the ZX Spectrum in 1989, Game Gear and Sharp X68000 in 1992. For this review, I played the arcade version found as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Plot

An alien fleet as appeared in our solar system and has captured has captured a large number of humans. You must travel from ship to ship and rescue 10 captives for n each before a bomb explodes killing all on board.

Gameplay

You can play as either Ricky or Mary (or both in two-player mode). As you run around the ship looking for captives to free, you will encounter many weird and hostile aliens. You are armed with a gun and will find many power-ups along the way including flame throwers and lasers. Once you have rescued enough captives, you will be told to head for the exit. Once through the exit, you will encounter a boss battle. Once that boss is defeated, you will head to the next alien ship. However, there is time limit so be careful you don’t take too long rescuing the captives. To rescue the captives, simply walk into them.

Shoot those blobs! (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are tight, much needed for a game of this sort. You are able to fire in eight directions and there is a nice array of different weapons, each with their own merits. These can be found by looking for metallic doors with letters painted on them (L for Laser etc.). You can’t hurt your partner or the captives so I’d recommend pounding that fire button!

Each level also contains maps that are attached to the walls. When you walk near one, a small map appears which shows the exit and locations of the other captives.

This game is very difficult and unforgiving, and you will die a lot!. It’s one of those games that older gamers would tell younger gamers about whilst stating things like “Games were harder when I were a lad!”. The difficulty does diminish the fun a little, but I think that if you had a dedicated friend who was willing to play a few hours with you, I reckon it would be completable.

Graphics

The graphics look good. Certainly not as colourful as the likes of Gauntlet (1985), but the backgrounds and levels are certainly more detailed and interesting to look at. There are also levels (like Level 3) where enemies rise and fall giving the game a real feeling of depth. The enemy sprites are more detailed and are nicely animated too.

Music & SFX

At the beginning of every level, a robotic voice states “The time bomb is set!” which is a nice touch as it adds to the tension of the level.

The music is there, but I think you become so engrossed in what’s going on that it is easy to forget it’s there. Add to that the constant zapping from your weapons and I think your brain seems to filter the music out. I’m sure you would miss it though if it wasn’t there.

Replay Value

There are many ways to increase the difficulty of the levels including adjusting the difficulty setting, number of lives and by reducing the timer limit. The two-player co-op mode also adds to the replay value because it is quite a fun game to play with a friend.

Don’t be fooled by this weird brain-type thing, the bosses are tough (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

No. At present, I can’t get past the second boss on my own and couldn’t get past Level 4 in two-player mode.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “It is a classic L and R job with the usual high strains of play and presentation expected from Sega. Overall 8/10.[1]

My Verdict:

“This game is tough…but fun. You just enjoy running around the levels blasting away to your heart’s content, especially in two-player mode.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alien Syndrome? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Mean Machines – Alien Syndrome’. Computer & Video Games. (April 1988). Issue 78:23.

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Altered Beast (Arcade) – Review

One of the great things about emulation is that you get to play arcade games that you didn’t get the chance to experience first time around. Compared to their console ports, the arcade versions usually had better graphics and sound…but are a lot harder!

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Altered Beast is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up with some platform gaming elements. It was developed and published by Sega and released in the arcade in 1988. I have already reviewed the Mega Drive version of Altered Beast (1989). For this review, I played the arcade version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Smash your way through a graveyard filled with the undead (Screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

“Rise from your grave!” commands Zeus, as you emerge from your tomb. You play as a Roman Centurion who is resurrected by Zeus (I know Zeus was a Greek God and the Roman equivalent was Jupiter, but let’s overlook the mythological inconsistencies). Your mission is to rescue Zeus’ daughter, Athena, (Minerva for the Romans) from the evil Demon God known as Neff who has taken her to the Underworld.

Gameplay

You must punch and kick your way through graveyards and caverns to reach the Underworld, all the while fighting numerous undead minions and monsters. In order to meet and defeat the end of level bosses, you need to collect three orbs which increase your strength and eventually morph you into anthropomorphised animals such as wolves, bears, tigers and dragons, each with unique abilities.

The Gothic organ that plays over the cutscenes is awesome (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Interestingly, there is quite a difference between the Mega Drive version and the arcade version. For example, the punching and kicking is noticeably slower in the arcade version. This all changes, however, once you transform into your beastie. Your speed increases significantly and you pretty much fly around the screen, which you don’t do when playing the Mega Drive version. The arcade version also sees a slight delay when you try to jump higher because our hero crouches briefly before leaping. This adds an element of realism to the game but takes some getting used to.

Graphics

Being an arcade version, the graphics are obviously superior to any of the console ports, especially where the backgrounds are concerned. The sky on Level One, for example, blends the different shades of blue seamlessly, and the sprites themselves are smoother and more detailed with more vibrant colours. The two-headed dogs, for instance, are more defined and you can actually see what they are. As a kid, I thought they were some kind of bull. When you kill an enemy, rather than just explode, bits of their broken torso fly at the screen towards you which is a gory but cool touch. The animations for when you transform into your beast look great and your attacks are better illustrated and animated. I also like the fact that when you are greeted by Neff at the end of the level, you actually see him grow before he turns into the boss which is a nice little addition. After the boss fight, Neff’s head appears and sucks the orbs out from you, returning you to your puny self. The blue field that surrounds you whilst he does this looks great.

Music and SFX

The music itself isn’t all that memorable but I do like the way that for each level, it starts off quite understated but jacks up when you transform into your beast, and for when you fight the boss battle. The best music from this game, though, comes during the cut scenes. When the purple disc appears showing the various stages of Neff’s ritual, a creepy, Gothic organ plays over the top. It certainly sends a shiver down my spine.

When you collect an orb, your hero proclaims “power up” as he grows into a more muscular version of himself. This is so iconic that I’d wager any gamer worth their salt upon hearing that soundbite would be able to tell you what game it came from.

I also like when you meet Neff and he states, “Welcome to your doom!”. In the arcade version he actually sounds scary, as oppose to the raspy greeting your get on the Mega Drive.

Collect three orbs and become magical beast (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes

What The Critics Said:

The Games Machine: “Altered Beast is an interesting coin-op in that while not being a highly visual game like Space Harrier, Out Run and the like, it offers enough in its gameplay warrant a good play. Overall Positive.[1]

Commodore User: “…the gameplay really doesn’t vary greatly, or increase markedly in toughness. Still, a cleaver game, and still worth a few tens of anybody’s money.  Overall 7/10.[2]

My Verdict:

“Although the graphics are clearly superior to any port version, the action when you’re human is slowed down and gives the game a laboured pace. Disappointing really as even the arcade version falls short of what could’ve been so much better.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Altered Beast? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Confrontation Co-op – Altered Beast’. The Games Machine. (November 1988). Issue 12:30-1.

[2] Kelly, N., ‘Arcades – Altered Beast’. Commodore User. (September 1988). Issue 60:94-5.

Monkey Island 3: The Curse of Monkey Island – Review

After the success of The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991), is it any wonder that LucasArt would continue with the franchise? However, fans would have to wait another six years before the third instalment appeared…The Curse of Monkey Island!

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

The Curse of Monkey Island is a point and click adventure game develop and publish by LucasArt. It was released in 1997 for Microsfit Windows. For this review, I played the version downloaded from Steam.

Plot

Once again, we follow our hero Guybrush Threepwood. After being stranded at sea for many days on a bumper car, the tides drift him to Plunder Island and caught between LeChuck’s bombardment of Elaine’s fort. It seems LeChuck still wants to marry her and won’t take no for an answer. After foiling LeChuck’s assault, Threepwood finds a diamond ring amongst the pirate treasure. He then formally proposes to Elaine, who accepts. As soon as she puts the ring on, she transforms into a gold statue…the ring is cursed! She is stolen soon after. Threepwood must save Elaine and find a way to lift the curse. Easy right?

Gameplay

The game continues with the point and click style. Your cursor is an ‘X’. When you hover over items, characters, or scenery, that you can interact with, the name of it will appear on the screen. The interface is in the style of a gold pirate doubloon.  To access it, simply hold the eft mouse button over an item and the interface will appear. The hand icon instructs Threepwood to pick up, use, or hit someone; the eyes allow you to examine something; and the parrot head instructs Threepwood to talk to or bite/eat something. To access your inventory, you simply click the right mouse button.

When talking to characters, there are usually several options that appear which usually involves comical quips or questions that help you progress.

A new feature in the series are the sea battles. Using left click to steer and right click to fire, you must learn to manoeuvre you ship into range before firing a volley broadside into the enemy whilst evading their fire.

The new graphics look fab! (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The user interface and the number of commands has been simplified to make the game more enjoyable (in my opinion). This game is easy to learn and easy to navigate. No complaints here. The ship battles easy, but fun and a good way to mix up the action. They may not be everyone’s bottle of rum though.

Apart from the usual: examine everything on screen tactic used by point and click fans everywhere, which offers quips from guybrush, there are two other aspects to the game that add to this gaming experience. The first is by adding a banjo duelling scene where you must compete with another banjo player by plucking the correct strings in order. The second is by sword battle where you win by hurling verbal assaults at your opponent or countering their insults with even bigger burns. These two aspects of the game are alot of fun!

Graphics

As one may expect after such a long hiatus, the graphics are vastly improved. Not everyone was happy with the more comical style that the characters took on, but I loved it. The scenes are quirky an colourful with plenty to investigate, and the characters are larger than life. Bravo!

Music and SFX

Once you’ve selected your difficulty setting, you begin to hear a few primates chattering away. Over the next few seconds there is clearly some excitement as the voices become louder and more animated. I loved this intro to the game…but then again, I love chimps too.

During the story introduction, you are met with a beautifully animated introduction to the game with some fab Caribbean-style music played over the top. The in-game music doesn’t grab your attention, but its subtlety really works and is fitting for the game.

This game is the first in the series to have voice acting. It stars Dominic Armato as Guybrush Threepwood, Alexandra Boyd as Elaine Marley, and Earl Boen as Ghost Pirate LeChuck.

Replay Value

You have the option of playing a simpler game with less puzzles for a harder game with more puzzles. This is a neat feature and adds replay value to the game. This game is certainly worth revisiting and I know amny of my firends who have played through this more than once.

“I am rubber, you are glue!” (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, but I probably used more hints from a walkthrough than I should have. Oh, the impatience of age!

What the Critics Said:

Computer Gaming World: Outstanding animation, plot, dialogue, and puzzles add up to the most satisfying adventure game of the year. Overall 5/5.[1]

Next Generation: “…despite its flaws, Curse, like its two predecessors, is still fun enough to remain a satisfying experience. The Monkey Island games are massively popular for a reason: people enjoy playing them. So it’s hard to find too much fault with LucasArt for epitomizing the axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Overall 3/5.[2]

Gamespot: “There simply isn’t much to dislike about this game, except possibly the ending, which seemed a bit abrupt and anticlimactic after 20 hours of gameplay. Still, The Curse of Monkey Island should more than satisfy the cravings of the Monkey Island faithful and even appeal to gamers who don’t typically go in for graphic adventures. Overall 9/10”.[3]

PC Gamer US: “If this isn’t destined to be a classic, I’ll swallow a cutlass. Overall 95%”.[4]

PC Zone: “Essentially, then, The Curse Of Monkey Island offers more of the same. That’s no bad thing because there are still mad fools out there who’ve never laid their eyes on Monkey 2, but of course to us old ape hands, Monkey 3 is no longer startlingly ‘new’. It’s far more polished than its prequel, yet at the same time familiar and reassuringly tip-top territory. Overall 9.2/10.[5]

PC Games: The Secret of Monkey Island was an enormous success. By contrast, LeChuck’s Revenge seemed weak, and the laughs intermittent. The Curse of Monkey Island, though, features all the vitality of the original release. If you want inventive puzzles, fine graphics, and, above all, enough wit to power an entire season of prime-time television, don’t miss this game. Overall A.[6]

Awards:

Adventure Game of the Year 1997 – Computer Gaming World[7]

Adventure Game of the Year 1997 – Computer Games[8]

Best Adventure Game 1997 – Gamespot[9]

My Verdict:

What’s not to like? This game looks awesome, has fab music with great SFX and voice acting with larger than life characters. It is also incredibly fun to play and is a worthy sequel to the ever-popular Monkey Island series. I’m now itching to play the next instalment.

Rating:

What are your memories of The Curse of Monkey Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.

[1] Green, J., ‘Review: The Curse of Monkey Island’. Computer Gaming World. (March 1998). Issue 164:152-3.

[2] ‘Rating – The Curse of Monkey Island’. Next Generation. (March 1998). Issue 39:113.

[3] Ryan, M.E., (Nov 25 1997) ‘The Curse of Monkey Island’. Gamespot. (http://www.gamespot.com/pc/adventure/curseofmonkeyisland/review.html Accessed 18th April 2022).

[4] ‘Curse of Monkey Island, The,’ PC Gamer US. (February 1998). (https://web.archive.org/web/19991206173715/http://www.pcgamer.com/reviews/289.html Accessed on 18th April 2022).

[5] ‘PC Reviews – Monkey Island 3: The Curse of Monkey Island’. PC Zone. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080407171909/http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=3210 Accessed on 18th April 2022).

[6] Brenesal, B., (01/05/1998). ‘The Curse of Monkey Island’. PC Games. http://www.games.net/pcgames/articles/0%2C1034%2C1211%2C00.html?CHANNEL=pcgames&AD_SECTION=review Accessed on 18th April 2022).

[7] ‘CGW 1998 Premier Awards: Adventure Game of the Year’. Computer Gaming World. (March 1998). Issue 164:76.

[8] ‘The winners of 1997 Computer Games Award’. Computer Games Strategy Plus. (https://web.archive.org/web/20050206152953/http://www.cdmag.com/articles/009/194/1997_cgsp_awards.html Accessed on 18th April 2022).

[9] ‘Best & Worst Awards 1997 – Best Adventure Game’. Gamespot. (https://web.archive.org/web/20010210224852/http://www.gamespot.com/features/awards97/adven.html Accessed on 18th April 2022).