In the last article I mentioned that at a very memorable sleepover, I was able to rent two games instead of the usual one. The first being ‘General Chaos’, which held up as well as an oil soaked baby near a campfire. I remember playing that one the most, though it’s most likely because it was a multiplayer game and it’s kind of a dick move to have the people you invited over watch you have fun instead of literally anything else. That’s not to say that I didn’t rent a single player game. After all, those assholes were only staying over for a single night and I rented these sons of bitches for THREE DAYS!
Picking out a game was always a treat, yet this time, it was a chore. I distinctly remember being rushed since there were errands that needed to be taken care of before our guests arrived. Renting games back in the day was practically a religious experience. Would you tell a priest to hurry up with the spoiled grape juice and crackers because you needed to stop by Woolworth (yes, it was still around when I was a kid)? Rushing through the process could lead to renting a shitty game, and with precious little time and money in between rentals, grabbing any old game was simply not an option.
Given how pressed for time I was, I decided to play it safe. I picked out a game based on something familiar; a movie. Nowadays, we know that video games based on movies are usually a terrible rush job, however to a seven year old brain, what could go wrong?
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
I should mention that while I was young, I had already seen the film at this point. I knew that there should have been only one Alien and that if this game was going to be accurate to the movie, it should be about running around and collecting stuff like another game I owned called ‘No Escape’ (also based on a movie and will be the subject of another article). While this was fine for the movie (unlike most ‘Alien’ fans, I have no problem with part 3), part of me didn’t want that. I needed action! I wanted guns! I wanted to shoot some fucking Aliens!
My first playthrough was all about shooting Aliens and climbing through vents. I don’t know why that was important, but it’s in all the movies, so I guess it needed to be there in order for me to enjoy it. I remember being creeped out by how sudden an Alien could appear and damn near kill you. When I gunned down the bastard, I got hurt by its acid blood. As a young ‘Alien’ fan, everything that needed to be there in order to make it the greatest ‘Alien’ based game was present. It may have been a short list, but it’s all I needed. After all, how could something with all THREE of the things I was looking for be garbage?
That’s when I ran out of ammo, ran out of time, and everyone in the level died.
When I realized that the first level was timed and that I needed to save cocooned prisoners, I was bummed, but I was willing to roll with it. It was just one level, right? Then the next one was the same…then the next. It was awesome that the Genesis version had blood spray out when the chestbursters popped out of each victim, yet there’s only so many times a kid can think that’s cool before it becomes a symbol of failure.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
Ever wonder what would happen if ‘Stargate’ and ‘Bug Bunny’s Crazy Castle’ drunkenly hooked up and the baby was born with fetal alcohol syndrome? That’s ‘Alien 3’! It’s a failure on every level. It has to be the laziest cash in of a movie franchise I’ve played to date, and how many lazy cash ins have I already played?
Almost everything I remember about this game turned out to be true, which is a rarity. The only thing that I misremembered was being hurt by the Alien’s acid blood. That doesn’t happen. Other than that, it’s basically the same. I even ran through the same gamut of emotions in 2016 that I experienced in 1992. I was hyped up for the potential, hopeful that I was mistaken about the gameplay, but then reality set in and there I was, a grown man trying to play a shitty Sega game on his lunch break in the middle of a public park (had to resort to the dreaded “E”, which happens from time to time). It would have been creepy if it wasn’t so sad.
Every stage is a timed race between the player and boredom/frustration. Just as I remembered, your arsenal is straight out of the movie ‘Aliens’ complete with pulse rifle, flame thrower, and the grenades that were made popular by the phrase “You always were an asshole Gorman.” All this firepower would be fantastic if the action backed it up, but ‘Alien 3’ decided that if they were going to give you the arsenal of a Colonial Marine, then they better make each Alien a dump truck. The majority of the game, you WILL be knocked on your ass before you get off more than a single shot.
On top of that, every stage, EVERY STAGE, is designed to waste your time. And I mean that literally. Since there’s a countdown to failure looming at the top of the screen, each level is painstakingly crafted to make you lost. Dead ends ensure that at least 30 seconds disappear as you backtrack and figure out which ladder takes you to the next victim and which one loops back to an area that you never needed to be in. You’ll feel lost, wondering how you’re supposed to get onto a platform you saw from another area. What you don’t know is that you need to channel your inner Indiana Jones and take a leap of faith. How do you know when you’re going to hit a platform and when you’ll actually fall to your death? Fuck you, that’s when.
I shouldn’t be surprised that a game that felt half assed 25 years ago didn’t hold up very well. That’s like expecting the loose girl in high school to not have 6 kids and 9 STDs. When I hit peak frustration, I resorted to looking up a speedrun of this game. During speed running marathons, watching a brave soul take on a shitty game is the best part to me. Knowing that they spent hundreds of hours trying to perfect a broken mechanic adds to my sense of amazement when they effortlessly beat a game that caused hissy fits and breakdowns in countless thousands of others after a single level. Even with that love, I still found the run of ‘Alien 3’ tedious.