Playing rules: Difficulty: Normal. Start: 3 lives. Timer: 150 seconds. Continues: Not allowed. Scores accepted for single-player only.
Dip Switch Bank A: 1-8 = OFF
Dip Switch Bank B: 1 = Unused; 2 = ON (Demo sounds); 3-8=OFF
Current Record holders:
1st: 2,268,200 - Donn Nauert - 1988
6th: 121,800 - Kristian Mroczko - 2001
Ahhhhh, Alien Syndrome! I’ve never seen one of these arcade machines in the flesh but I do remember playing the game fondly on my Atari ST (which apparently was a pretty decent port) and while it didn’t usurp the mightiness of Gauntlet 2 in the multi-player stakes, it was a favorite also-ran certainly. Question is: that was exclusively multi-player japery (is that even a word?), what about the single player game? Well, that’s a mystery to me too so colour me interested.
Score wise - I didn’t even really notice that the game *had* a score so the record of 2 million plus doesn’t mean a great deal to me at this stage. The next best score is just under 500,000 though, so there is a nice big gap suggesting that it is a goodun – that and the fact that its from nigh on 20 years ago.
So, what’s the game about? Well, it’s quite a simple game really; you control a little mister (or miss if you like that sort of thing) whose task is to rescue the remaining crew members from the level while avoiding and shooting the beasties that get in your way. The setting of the game is Alien-esque, especially the second level, so you will mainly be wandering about spaceships and various other classic sci-fi settings. You start off with a piddly little gun, but there are panels in the wall along the way with various power-ups and bonuses and rather handy they are too. Once you have rescued 10 of your crew, you are prompted to exit the level and face the guardian who just happens to be patiently waiting behind the EXIT door for you - that’s guardians for you, nothing if not considerate. Piece of piss then, no? Woah there Nelly, did I tell you that you have a strict time limit? As the settings say up there you have 150 seconds to complete each level which can sometimes be quite tight considering how well some of the crew are hidden – even with the help of the maps knocking about the level.
So let’s get going! First off you’re asked to choose your character, of which I choose the bloke. Now, I don’t want to dwell on this too much but I’ve always cast a wary eye on men that choose female characters in video games. Before you get on the phone to the pink police, I don’t mean that in a gay way at all (ok, maybe a little bit) – it’s just something I find a little odd. I know for a fact, in my childhood arcade in Edmonton I wouldn’t be caught dead playing a single player game and *choosing* a front-bottomed girl as my character. In a two player game perhaps, as you have no choice but even then it would be the weedier or smellier of the two players that had to be the girlie. So I choose the bloke alright? (never confused). Anyway – the Irony is, it doesn’t make any bloody difference who you choose. The female character plays exactly the same – she just looks different, looking suspiciously Ripley-esque from the film Alien as a matter of fact (naughty SEGA).
Ignoring the fact that the first level looks like a silver cock and balls on the mission screen (Honestly, just look at it!), the game is exactly as I remember it. Level one has you wandering about amidst a load of slowish moving blobs, nothing too taxing – and the crew are pretty easy to find as the layout isn’t too complicated either.
It’s when I start to find the crew that I get a bit annoyed. On the first level at least there are only 2 different types of crew member to find:
First type I have utmost sympathy for; some poor girl has got herself trapped in alien goo, at the mercy of the blobs. Despite this, and perhaps with the very last of her strength, she holds a single hand up, desperate for help – “please save me” she silently cries, “you are my only hope”.
Second type; what a bell-end. Some lad in green overalls stands there, not moving an inch or even maybe HELPING YOU fight the aliens that swarm absolutely everywhere. There are weapons in the panels of the walls, he knows that – but does he get off his fat arse and chip in? Does he bollocks. He just stands there waving at you like a plum. “excuse me kind sir, I happen to have got somewhat lost on the way back from the gym – could you please collect me and carry me to the exit? That’s it, a little closer. No – I can’t walk even a single step towards you to make it easier, bit of a dicky ankle you see playing polo with Tabatha”. FUCK OFF.
Ahem. So, two types of crew to save then – and although I’m thoroughly upset each and every time I save one of the Pimms loving gits I don’t argue and get on with the hero lark. Hang on though, what’s this? I’ve collected 10 crew members and the screen is telling me to exit, yet the map says that there are many people left to save. Do I just leave them? That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? “Sorry luv, met me quota – good luck with that Alien infestation thing, ta ta!”. So of course I wander about collecting the extra people, after all points mean prizes and all that.
With barely 20 seconds left I get to the exit with loads of extra crew on board ready for the guardian. Hold on! The timer doesn’t reset – it only adds on a paltry 20 seconds – shit! The panic is short lived though, turns out the guardian is a bit of a puff and I manage to kill him with a few seconds to spare. Thanks Mr Flame thrower!
Second Level is quite similar but with Aliens instead of blobs and it all goes a bit wrong. They shoot a lot on this level see and to be honest I didn’t expect it. TWICE. (yeah alright, leave it)
Well, the 2 million is definitely a cracking score then. Killing deadly aliens is only worth a few hundred points in this game, that’s a rubbish amount and saving the “extra” crew over and above the needed amount is worth 100 points each as well. Sod ‘em. Tell you what though, I’ve had a cracking thought. Seeing as there are loads of extra crew about, I’m actually going to ONLY save the trapped girls in pink and leave the others to their fate. Ha! That’ll learn ‘em.
The game is quite good fun that’s for sure – only my second go in and I’m starting to get a feel for the levels and the weapons already. The two favorites are the laser and the flamethrower, especially for the guardians where the extra power really helps. However - for fucks sake, WHY do people make grenade style weapons so bloody damn RUBBISH?? I struggle to name a game where a grenade style looping weapon is a good idea. Ghosts and Goblins had an awful throwing torch weapon for example and this has an absolutely horrible “ball” style projectile weapon that is not only useless but stupid. GAH! Whatever you do, don’t pick up the weapon upgrade that has a “B” on the panel. Trust me.
Anyway, I do better this time and I get to the second level guardian before it goes wrong. Loads of spinning blobs roll about the screen firing barrel loads of blobs your way every few seconds. Frankly it’s all a bit too much and the laser doesn’t seem to be making much impact at all. Arsebiscuits. dead.
Last go and I’m quickly back to the second level guardian, avoiding the green crew members on the way of course. This time I decide to try the short range flamethrower (there are two types, one that fires bursts of flame across the screen and one that is the more traditional stream of flame that is only about an inch long) and it’s a revelation. The concentrated flame makes quick work of the blobs and BOOM that’s me on the third level. Woo!
Third level then, and pretty much same again – this time with little jellyfish style enemies that shoot a hell of a lot. See, that’s a bit of a problem – the controls are actually quite good but you just can’t shoot where you want to as you can only shoot in the direction that you are running. This makes for many a death, especially when enemies come at you diagonally. Even so, the third level has an even crueler twist to it.
We’re spoilt these days I tell you. Name me a modern game that lets you walk off of the edge of levels to your death? Not many I wager, certainly not this style of game anyway. Usually you reach the end of a cliff or something and the game stops you walking any further – not so here. The third level contains quite a few narrow ledges that link the level together, and me being a spoilt modern gamer I didn’t really pay them much attention and just bundled across the first one I saw. Fell to my death. Bastards, thought I.
Fair enough though and I manage to not only reach the guardian but kill the funny looking jellyfish with googly eyes and stumpy legs. Again it was down to choice of weapon I reckon, the laser made quick work of quite a tricky looking boss – I reckon any other weapon and he would have been a lot harder.
4th level then and I’m on a roll! No i’m not – bloody diagonals. Dead. cock.
Wahey! That score is enough to get above the lowest record of 121,000. Harshly however, that’s all it gets me as 4th and 5th are about the 250,000 range – which is pretty close but not close enough. Still, the game is pretty good fun and the second place of 500,000 looks very possible. I have my doubts about the top score mind you. With only 7 levels I can’t see how a score like that is possible, unless of course the game starts again or something as you clock it. I suspect that the game will just end though – in which case there would have to be a severe case of score leeching or somesuch going on. I might be wrong though – all I DO know is that I won’t be getting anywhere near it…and I don’t mind so much really. If getting the record means saving those guys in green you can keep it!