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 By the time I began to venture into arcades on my own as a teenager, many of the games had been replaced by fruit machines.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!
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).
An alien fleet has appeared in our solar system and has captured a large number of humans. You must travel from ship to ship and rescue 10 captives from each one before a bomb explodes killing all on board.
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.
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.
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.
There are many ways to increase the difficulty of the levels including adjusting the difficulty setting, number of lives and by reducing the time 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.
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 four 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”.
“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.”
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.
 ‘Mean Machines – Alien Syndrome’. Computer & Video Games. (April 1988). Issue 78:23.