|An entirely original creature, since its a centipede centaur
Anyway, I doubt I'm going to say anything The Wargaming Scribe hasn't said ten times more intelligently than I. I only came across this game in comparison to early survival horror game Nostromo, which was hardly anything related to survival horror, and offered this as a slightly better point of comparison. I believe one of his commentators, Porkbelly, got the manual and then fixed up the game.
The actual story of The Alien, as opposed to something else you might be thinking of, is that among the alien creatures picked up on a routine creature gathering expedition, is a very deadly, mutating creature, which, naturally, breaks out of its cage, freeing the rest of critters, and begins wrecking havoc on a spaceship. To paraphrase The Gauntlet (1977) "a nothing creature from a nothing expedition". Now, the objective is to recapture or kill the creature. Scratch that, we're killing it. Not even metagaming here, if it broke out once, it'll break out again, shoot to kill.
|Not even pretending to be any different in-game
|Ah, the garish Apple II color scheme, how I missed you so
The crew is a varied bunch. There are the two command staff, who can allow entrance to certain areas of the ship, work the computer and activate the self-destruct. Then there are two scientists, who can also work the computer, but are the only ones who can do anything with the cages. Finally, three engineers who can build things. Like a flamethrower and possibly other things.
|Yes, aliens, plural, because he can clone himself
For now all this means is everyone except two of the engineers walk towards the armory, while those two stick in maintenance to build themselves a flamethrower. The problem with this is that the game makes this just so tedious to accomplish. What should take a minute at most now takes a few. You have to press the right arrow to cycle through every possible action or destination. At least for the later it takes out places you can't go. Remember, this is the improved version where the controls actually work.
|You can only construct something if you've done nothing else that turn, luckily the other two engineers built the flamers
|That was easier than I expected
Since doing anything with the computer isn't going well, I have the commander help out with the wildlife...and he's met The Alien. Time to shoot this thing with the dart gun...and he's dead. Looks like its time to stop playing around and start shooting this thing?
|"Should we deal with The Alien?" "No, let's talk about how this makes us feel."
|I don't think it adapts to attacks I make, but I doubt it'll be vulnerable for too long
One of my squads captures some wildlife, but unfortunately The Alien walks onto the bridge. Good thing that flamethrower still works, but knowing my luck it won't next time. I gather my men back onto the bridge, and The Alien takes out the engineer with the flamethrower. Worse, the lasers don't work on it. Without any other option, I have the second-in-command activate the self-destruct sequence.
The escape out to the shuttles is mostly uneventful, save for a close call one of the engineers have. The laser might not have done any good attacking, but it'll drive it off. Once inside the escape shuttles. Then the long wait, while every turn the Apple II's horrendous speaker makes a beeping sound. I really can't do anything except wait for every single movement sequence the game forces me through, while the ship slowly prepares to destroy itself. The Alien isn't on either shuttle while this is happening. So did I win...? Technically?
A brilliant light show occurs...
|I wonder if someone ever said yes on this screen
It does seem like there's very little skill in the game. You're basically just hoping you can reach The Alien before it turns invulnerable. Its incredibly easy for the game to end with the PCs all dead. I was thinking about how you could improve the game so it'd be fun, you know, beyond improving the interface. Expanding the early game time for one, since it seems like you barely have any time at all in this game. Not having the game stop because a crew member got killed for another. Might as well strip naked and slather yourself in bacon grease if we're going to do that. I was thinking you could have 8 people play the game together, so that at the correct time the robot could start killing the humans while The Alien tries to survive, but crap, getting 8 people together for this kind of gameplay sounds horrific.
I'm not going to give this a rating and a number, simply because this is crap. Its ugly, its slow and tedious, and any fun to be had is buried so far beneath its awful presentation its not worth finding. Frankly, everything I've played from publisher Avalon Hill has been a waste of a good board game brand. And that includes a few titles that I decided not to cover. Talk about an annoyance. Still, because I don't really want to return to this again, let's also talk about the Japanese version, released a year later, by porter Kiya (who basically just did Avalon Hill titles) and publisher CRK Research Institute. You've heard of the later, under the name of CRI, yes, those people. The ones credited in nearly every game over the past two decades.
|Usually the Japanese title screen is more impressive, not so here
|I haven't translated everything, because not everything is important
Who do you pick?
@ナニモシタイ (Do nothing, in the FM-7 version, you have to press the key right of P, whatever that is on your keyboard)
A:ケージ ニ イレル (insert in cage)
B:ドウブシ ヲ ツカマエル (capture animal)
C:エアロック ヲ アケル (open airlock)
D:エイリアン ヲ コウゲキ (attack alien)
E:エイリアン ヲ コウトロール (capture alien)
F:コンピューター ヲ ソウサ (operate computer)
G:ケンキュウヨウケジ ヲ カクニン (laboratory confirm, probably inventorize)
H:フネ ヲ ハナレル (leave the boat)
I:ケンキュウヨウケージ ニ ウツス (describe the captured animals)
J:ジバクソウモ ヨ ソウサ (operate self-destruct)
カノジヨ ハ ナニヨシマスカ？ (Pick one)
|This ship looks like a failed Star Trek prototype
Items, in the right box:
マスイジュウ (Dart Gun)
Captain Oparin (That is the actual name, A Russian composer)
Navigation officer Piajie (Piaget, apparently)
Navigation officer Sondaku
Doctor Ieitsu （Yates or Yeats)
Researcher Rurusu (Lois or Luis)
Engineer Buraun (Brown? Braun?)
(0 skips to the next possible scene)
The interesting bit here seems to be that the game doesn't quite match up with what the original version had as its crew. Couple of things to note, I have no idea what the cast's names are. I guessed on some and looked up others on the Japanese Wikipedia. I literally have no idea what some of these names could possibly be. I thought that Oparin might have been O'Brian, but I realized I just misread the word. Then looking at some of the translations, I realized two things. These were all decidedly not Japanese names, and secondly, they all had taken names from poets, scientists and composers.
Oparin is a Russian composer, fairly obscure. (EDIT, I misremembered back when I first wrote this, he's actually a Soviet biochemist)
Yeats is an English poet, who you probably actually know.
Piaget is a Swiss psychologist.
What the heck? There's another Japanese-made game, whose name escapes me, which had as its NPC portraits images taken from a book on Nazi Germany and the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Anyway, I'll do what I did last time and have my officers grab lasers and hopefully then track down The Alien before it becomes too powerful to deal with. Just move to the armory, which is L, with Oparin.
Oh...I can't. At least I think I can't. Arujaanon is a bit above my pay grade, but mausu is something very obvious. Mouse. Except...huh? Does this mean that there's a mouse in there or that its poisonous? Surely the captain can enter the armory! Well, I try Piaget...and that O corridor is poisonous. Okay. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The other officer can't move either. Maybe I need to reset the game?
No, I can't move. At all. All 3 officers refuse to move anywhere, giving various statements, about the alien, about cages, its all so strange. I suspect one of three things is happening, the emulator I'm running this on, xm7dash3452a130423, which I got from the Neo Kobe emulator collection on the Internet Archive, is glitching with this game. The other two involve the game, firstly that it got damaged in the preservation process, or that its copy protection acted up in the preservation process. Either way, I've done all I could. Looks like The Alien part 3 might just be in my future after all.
I think another strategy game is going to be in this blog's future. Based on a different 1970s film that has been ripped off so many times. You might be able to figure out the movie, but you'll never figure out what it is I'm going to be playing come October. Next up, Gravitar and the conclusion to 1982.