Alien (ZX Spectrum, 1984)

(image from Eurogamer.net)

Licensed movie tie-in games were a staple of my childhood back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Ocean Software were probably the kings of the movie tie-in, with their 1989 title Batman probably a stand-out.

But, it was Argus Press Software’s 1984 game Alien that takes the crown as being the first tie-in game I played. I hadn’t seen the movie, of course, I wasn’t even born when it was released in cinemas, but there was something about the atmosphere that this game served up in spades that I just lapped up even at an early age.

The game loosely follows the plot of the movie. Somewhere aboard the Nostromo, the Alien is loose. The remaining crew members need to move around the ship, trying to deal with it as best they could. You could corral it to an airlock and blow it out into space, or you could (try and) kill it with your flamethrowers. Or you could try and escape in the shuttle (the Narcissus, fact fans!)

You would take control of each crew member, moving them around, interacting with items and trying to keep them alive, while hoping that you didn’t bump into the Alien and get attacked by the chillest of chill Aliens:

(image from Eurogamer.net)

I only ever played the ‘short game’, which reduced the number of crew members you had to manage (hey, I was 8 years old) and even that was terrifying. Perhaps moreso, in some ways, you had fewer people that could die before it was game over!

The starting conditions were random each time. I didn’t appreciate this at the time, having not seen the film, but at the start of every game a random crew member, so not always Kane, would be dead (having given birth to the Alien) and the android crew member would also be randomly chosen, so that wasn’t always Ash either.

This game, coupled with my eventual consumption of the movie that spawned it, is definitely responsible for my intense fascination with the franchise. Such a great game, although obviously quite dated these days.