Alien, ZX Spectrum

Developed by Concept Software and published by Argus Press in 1984, this adaptation of the classic 1979 film, Alien, is arguably the first serious video game based on the Alien series (I certainly wouldn’t describe the Atari 2600 version of Alien as ‘serious’).

Alien is a tactical/strategy game where you can control any of the seven crew, individually, by selecting them and moving and issuing commands to them via a text-based menu. The game follows the plot of the film fairly closely and the aim of the game is to escape from the Nostromo without being slaughtered by the alien, which creeps around the ship playing a game of cat and mouse with you. With you being the mouse…

This version of Alien reviewed reasonably well at the time of release, but one thing none of the reviewers picked up on back in 1984, and which only seems to have come to light recently, is the fact that the game is horribly bugged in so many places. Which makes Alien extremely difficult, in not impossible, to complete. At least: that used to be the case – until a guy called Ersh decided to hack the ROM and fix all the bugs. If you want to play this underrated game: do not bother with the original Argus Press version of Alien. At least not if you want to play it properly. Play the fixed Ersh version only. It’s easy to spot the fixed version because it says so on the title screen. There’s a link to the bug-fixed version below.

To summarise: although this early Alien game may be too old and archaic for some to enjoy, it is well-designed and has some nice detail, like emotional states, duct-crawling, the android and alien host roles being random among the seven crew, catching Jones the cat, and the cat having a sixth sense. The tension generated by the gameplay is pretty good considering the game’s age and limitations. If you like old games, and are a fan of the film, then you might get something out of Alien.

More: Alien (1984 video game) on Wikipedia
More: Alien (bug-fixed) on Spectrum Computing

5 thoughts on “Alien, ZX Spectrum”

  1. Always found this one to be interesting and a good stab at the licence, shame about the issues. The thing that always strikes me is that I can’t immediately think of any modern equivalent, most strategy games are team based military-esque jaunts, I can’t think of many that lean more into the horror/tension side of things. Would be interested to see a modern take.

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    1. Well, I’m playing Alien Isolation right now and I would say it’s somewhat similar. It seems to lean more towards being tactical than being a shooter. I’m very late to the party with AI, but it’s one of those games that I’ve had sitting in my Steam library gathering dust for years and have decided to play it now for grabs for the site. A friend of mine (actually Will Porter – ex-PC Zone) co-wrote the game. I keep seeing his name pop up in the in-game messages. 🙂

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      1. Isolation is a another great example of nailing the tone of the first film. Didn’t realise Will Porter was involved though! It’s a great game, but I was thinking more the crew management side of things. Thinking on games like RimWorld, you could really lean into crew sates of stress, panic, paranoia, etc. and trying to manage them while also trying to manage the alien intruder AI. There’s been a lot of progress in both areas since this original game

        That said, I’m otherwise still very partial to Aliens versus Predator (1998?), was one of the first Alien games I picked up and played it to death

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      2. Bet that was an interesting talk, loads going on in that area at the time. I liked AvP2 well enough, and even played LAN parties of it around 2016, it still really shined in multiplayer. I think I still prefer the slightly more arcadey approach of the first game. The newer one they did I struggled to enjoy and wound up forgetting about it.

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