It’s a bloody shame when, given a fairly straightforward idea and, more to the point, given an idea which works that sometimes game programmers just can’t get it right.
Because that, in a nutshell, sums up what I think about Die! Alien Slime. Anyone with a reasonably-good knowledge of ’80s videogames will recognise more than a shade of Alien Syndrome in the screenshots you can see around this article and that definitely seems to be the game that had the biggest influence on Die! Alien Slime so… well, why not just give us a clone?
Sure, a clone very rarely lives up to the inspiration, let alone surpasses it. But sometimes things work out okay – Who Dares Wins 2, which I wrote about ages ago, is a good case in point.
And yet, D!AS (that’s quite the shorthand) doesn’t seem to want to be Alien Syndrome, at least not that much. There’s wandering around a maze-like ship, there’s shooting blobby alien thingies and there’s a cartoonish-looking protagonist with a big gun. There, though, the similarities seem to end.
When you play AS, you know pretty-much from the off what needs to be done. Those aliens? They need to be shot. Those little waving characters? They need to be rescued. When the game says “get to the exit” you run for the exit (or rescue extra men for extra points if you’re that way inclined). In D!AS I had no idea what I was doing. I shot the aliens (who don’t even explode and just dissappear, extremely lazy stuff from the designers), wandered around looking for things and… erm… that was it really. Now, I have to admit that I couldn’t find instructions but I’ve no idea what they would have told me to do because there didn’t really seem to be much to do other than shoot aliens, collect some kind of power-ups (they appear as letters on the ground, more laziness, would icons have been so hard?), shoot more aliens, stand shooting for about 20 seconds at some green stuff to open more of the ship, explore, explore, get very bored, turn off, do something else. The ship is made up of corridors and lot of rooms which, on first glance, look interesting but turn out to be basically empty. The aliens are unimaginative blobs of goo and brown brain-things and have pretty-much no variety. And when I found a different weapon (which looked like a couple of letters, natch) all it did was made a different noise and killed aliens slightly quicker. Zzzz.
It seems someone wanted to write an AS “homage”, got to far and then decided they could do something vaster, more sprawling, more maze-like, less-fun. They should have ran with their original idea. Might have been worthwhile, which Die! Alien Slime really isn’t.
Out of interest, I also tried the Spectrum version (which I did find some instructions for) and it seems to have more to do but plays equally badly and has far worse graphics (you think the aliens in the Commodore version are bad? You ain’t seen nowt, lad!). Not a good start, C64; I hope the next game I pick out of the hat is rather better than this.