Thursday, January 21, 2021

Game 39: Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold

Name:Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Developer:JAM Software
Difficulty:4/5 (on Veteran)
Time: 32.5 hours

Well, what a game, eh? Heh...heh...heh...Looking back on it, Aliens of Gold gave me one final feeling. That of some Doom wads. At first it seems good, its slick, its well-polished, its got nice and shiny graphics. You start it up, its badass, with well-made levels. Eventually you give up, sing its praises to those you know and don't know. You just didn't have the time to finish it then, that's all. Then you finally sit down and say, I'm going to finish this. Its trash. The ammo and health are slathered on with no care, on easier difficulties you have 10x the amount you need, on harder ones you have none. Enemies in places are like a borderline slaughterwad. Elements that sounded cool to the devs, but just don't work at all.

At the end of it I have to wonder if the game's elements were good ideas badly implimented or bad ideas plaguing an otherwise okay game. Leaning on the former, some of these ideas return from Catacomb, like the monster that turns into a slime pit, or the monster that hides underwater. They led to a more acceptable game that time, so something went wrong here. For the latter, non-combat entities would have a while to go before even the semi-acceptable nature of Half-Life 1's scientists and guards. I think if you take out those guys this game becomes much less tedious to play, they're a sort of black hole on this game's quality.

I think its ultimately because of this, that the game failed. Certainly, Doom helped, but take it on its own merits, what do you have? Wolfenstein 2.0 with targets you're not supposed to hit. It doesn't help that they stuck most of the good levels at the front. It feels like its taken a step back from Catacomb and those weren't exactly the most brilliant games to begin with.
This is a very interesting selection of weapons. You have the three Wolfenstein guns, pistol, slow rapid-fire, quick rapid-fire. Then you have a slow pistol as the ammoless weapon and a rocket launcher. What's interesting about the rocket launcher is that it doesn't damage the player. Despite the overall issues with the game's design, I must admit that because of the way its set-up none of these weapons are ever really useless. The slow pistol in particular is much more useful than Wolfenstein's knife.

3/10 for being interesting.

At times they try, like with the aliens in objects or the aliens that hide on the floor, but for the most part, the cleverness that inhabited the Catacomb games is just gone. Gotta back up ten miles because the water alien doesn't want to shoot or because the STAR trooper doesn't get up off the ground for his second wind. Oh, can't forget about the exploding barrel I need to destroy to get 100% completion, but a friendly scientist is in the way! Oh, and the plasmaoid generators. Just the plasmaoid generators.

1, and I'm really doing this because the scientists ruin it.

Uff...the scientists man, the scientists. Isn't it amazing how an idea that sounds good on paper just completely screws things up? These guys caused me no end of grief, thanks to their inability to get out of harm's way. Not just getting in front of things I needed to shoot, but getting in my way of moving. Their presence makes the game considerably worse than it would have been as a plain Wolf-clone. The innovation doesn't really amount to much even, Galactic Empire, among others had the same feature before, and as a bonus, actually had a reason for them. This is just a few simple changes to the actor beneath, no attack state, and minus points for dying. The information they gave out was never really helpful either.

This is a 0.

This starts off nice. Well-designed maps with clever secrets. Then the shareware episode ends and its the meme about Doom, bizarre level design that's just an endless key hunt. 1

Player Agency:
This is the typical Wolfenstein-clone, tank controls unless you press alt, then can move but not turn. The game offers fast turning, but I felt it was annoying that the 180 degree turn only went one direction, rather than an option for the other one. Of interest is the map, which is absolutely ideal for this kind of shooter. Nice square, shows the whole map, highlights the secret areas and others of importance. Otherwise its okay. 5/10

Its like Wolfenstein. Well, I guess there are vending machines that give you food, but that's not very interesting either. 1

Well, there is something...its just not very good. It feels like a strange little sci-fi game at first, then the layers are slowly stripped away by the passage of time. 2/10

Its very blue, in retrospect. I will give it some credit, there's a lot of variety in one kind of wall. The whole environment looks really well. I don't think we're going to see anything look this technically good for years. With the caveat that this game doesn't look really slick otherwise. It all looks very...amateurish. Oh, wow, a simple gradient. If you or I made something that looked like this, it'd get called trash. That's nothing necessarily against it, its fine, but I think its not impressive otherwise. You can definitely tell its just one step above the Catacomb games though. 3/10

Dr. Goldfire is going to invade the Earth and I don't really care one way or the other. Its not very complex. 1/10

I like the sounds...broadly. Some care went into these and the little details. They could be as stock sound effect as Doom, but nobody cares enough to track these down. Then, there's the voices. I'm getting real sick of enemies saying one line in a certain situation. In particular, I disliked the voice of the mutant guard. Reminds me of the voice in Iron Blood, although that's later. At first it was cool, then it was just there to tell me another kind of enemy was there.

Musically, the soundtrack is rather generic for the most part. Its fine. Not exciting, boring really. Then there's the track I dub "The Space Harem of the Oil Sheik", which is just straight-up cursed and doesn't sound like it belongs, like it's some mod track downgraded to a lowish bitrate. Its bizarre.

Overall, not satisfactory. 3/10

That is 20. That puts it in now the most popular rating on my list. Right next to Hovertank 3D among others. I didn't find the experience worthwhile. Maybe you disagree with my conclusion, that's fine, this could have just hit at a bad time, I'm just here to tell you what I think. And others. Man, its really hard to think that I nearly beat four other games before this.

Almost universally the period reviewers point out the poor marketing of coming out the same time as Doom, its inferiority to it, and how its an updated Wolfenstein 3D.  That's not necessarily wrong, but its telling of a larger problem with this game. Its not that interesting to talk about.
Modern reviewers don't really have much to say about it, with the exception of GGmanlives, who I'm not terribly fond of. He doesn't bring up many interesting points that haven't already been established, but he does feel the music is a lot better than me...when he isn't pointing out that there's six tracks. Which is a valid point. What is of interest is that in the comments, Big Jim talked a bit about the game. The development on this was a bit troubled, with it taking twenty months and it was difficult to find a decent staff. What I find really interesting is that the Catacomb games were done in under 60 days.

In conclusion? It happened. Nobody's really concerned about it.

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