Given the critical drubbing that Sega’s Aliens: Colonial Marines has gotten across most of the Internet-verse, some gamers are still feeling the urge to play something that feels closer to James Cameron’s 1986 film than what ended up on store shelves. Well, allow me to assist in this matter (sort of). Track down a working Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and MSX and a copy of Electric Dreams’ 1987 game, Aliens or the rather interesting (and free) PC remake over at Derbian Games and see what was scary to gamers of that era.
Granted, what was frightening THEN is kind of awful by today’s standards, as you can see (especially if all you know are polygon-heavy games with realistic visuals). That said, there’s a certain odd charm about a side-scrolling game pretending to be 3D the way this does, the fact that ammo is limited to what your party carries (at least in the older games) and the difficulty goes way off the scale as your points total increases. Oh yeah, if one of your party members dies… he or she is gone for good. Did I mention this game is actually kind of hard? No? Well, it is, especially if you want a tutorial or expect regenerating health.
The Derbain remake (and the Aliens-inspired, Outpost 41) fixes a few things, but retains the same side-scroll deal, making navigation tricky unless you’re paying attention to the map and arrows on that map. You need to be quick and not dink around in this game at all, as the longer you play, the tougher the waves of aliens become. There’s actually a bit of strategy involved here and you’ll die a lot, but if you can overcome the visuals in any version (the Derbain game is the best-looking of the bunch, but still has a retro feel thanks to the hand-drawn elements), you may have a bit more fun than you did with Gearbox’ game.
On the other hand, you may think all of these ancient relics stink to high heaven and look at that new game in a better light, which works on a few levels for Gearbox and Sega at the end of the day, I suppose.