In our article series “The hunt for the lost games”, we test game historical artifacts that are no longer available for purchase. First out is the obscure but cheesy charming adventure Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure.
The game history is not particularly k-marked. By that I mean that we are not so good at protecting it. There are small game museums (although it is usually more hardware than games that are preserved there) and very good projects like Mobygames, which catalogs games on the assembly line. But the list of inaccessible, lost and forgotten games is getting longer all the time. There is nothing strange about that, really. But it’s a shame, for that. Therefore, we have decided to go out and search for the games that have moved. We call the article series “The Hunt for the Lost Games”, and we start by looking at the stars for an obscure license game.
In space, no one can hear you ragequitta. In fact, you do not have to do it anyway, too Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure crashes at regular intervals anyway. This is an obscure, unpolished old jewel based on the Dark Horse comic books, rather than the movie. It should also make one prepared at approximately what level the quality is at.
Even if you now like the comic books, you have to admit that they have a completely different tone than the movies. Misanthropy is screwed up to the max, where everyone is evil, crazy or just so bitter that they make me appear as the world’s most optimistic jerk. All the characters in Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure has serious attitude problems, which is definitely an attempt to emulate the hysterical grimdark tone in the series. It’s very much the 90’s, and even though it’s completely impossible to take seriously, it’s very entertaining. Not least the main character is a minor miracle of poorly written dialogue, bizarre facial expressions and an acting that all b-movie lovers should love. I just wish there were more dialogue scenes, because the clumsy acting and the crazy mine play of the other characters is also priceless.
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What is it?
An early attempt at an interactive comic book novel, based on the Dark Horse series.
A charming artifact
Instead, most of it goes away Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure to explore small, pre-rendered environments. We certainly avoid those slow movements, as in Myst, but it is often confusing and tricky to navigate the environments in the first person, where the camera angles sometimes make you think that you are moving forward when in fact you are going back the same way you came from.
The story is that you and three other extremely unprofessional military types will help an outpost that obviously has problems with intergalactic pests in the form of xenomorphs. The first task is to land the spaceship on the outpost before it is destroyed by a bunch of meteorites. In fact, all the chapters in the game go on time, which makes it even more frustrating that it is so slow to navigate around the environments.
The game also has weird fill-in stuff. An early task is to feed all four characters with food. Otherwise, they complain throughout the game that they are hungry, which is deeply disturbing. But the whole thing is more cumbersome than it has to be, because everyone requires up to five meals before they are full. It’s a bizarre design choice, because it’s not a puzzle to get the food. You just push it out of one machine, one meal at a time. So it’s just pure padding.
Another example is that you are forced to play Othello (or reversi, as it is called in foreign languages) against the computer in order to read articles on it. At least in the beginning. You may get to read the same articles later, then by losing in Othello due to a virus in your computer. These articles are not necessary, but provide some much-needed world-building.
The puzzle is mostly about searching the environments for buttons and sometimes single objects you need to use in the right places. Pretty basic stuff, and the game is not very difficult once you get acquainted with the environments.
There are also combat sequences, but thankfully they are super simple. Just keep your distance and shoot until the enemies collapse into a pile. The first person to be killed is also a human being, who has fantastic sounds of death to him, which of course is appreciated. Unfortunately, no xenomorphs appear until just before the end – not outside a few death scenes if you take too long, at least. The big problem, however, is that the game is buggy. Without a patch, you can not pick up a necessary item, but with the patch, the game crashes at regular intervals. Not just the game, either, it takes the whole DOSBox with it. It happens no less than twice in it 20 minute long movie clip on our youtube channel, where I show a little from the beginning of the game (complete with that amazing death scene).
Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure is not a very good game by today’s standards. But it is an interesting and charming artifact from a bygone era. An artifact that still deserves some attention even today, because it is an interesting attempt at an interactive comic book novel, of a cut that, among other things, Telltale would succeed much better with, much later. It’s much more larval than the also rather silly series model (where xenomorphs have telepathic abilities, and we get to see space jockeys that look a bit like Ganon from the old Nintendo Magazine series, but in a spacesuit), but also much more charming in all its exaggerated cheesiness.
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