A SPACE ODDITY
Yes, Alien 8 has arrived, the new megagame from Ultimate, and shock, horror, it looks almost identical to the last megagame from Ultimate, Knightlore - the same number of rooms, the same 3D graphics, just substitute a dinky robot for Sabreman and the Werewulf. But first impressions aren't always best as Ross Holman and Chris Wood found out when they started playing...
So now we know. The reason nobody can hear you scream in space i s ... they're all frozen stiff. Or rather they are 'cryogenically immersed', for Alien 8 comes with the same sort of instructions as Ultimate's other recent games. Enigmatic is an understatement. Obscure, opaque, mysterious or just plain unintelligable would be closer. Certainly, lots of long words and not many facts to join them together.
Much easier to pick up the gist of the plot by playing. All you need to know is that you are a robot, sorry, cybot, programmed to look after all the needs of the frozen astronauts, off on a jolly jaunt to colonise distant worlds. Unfortunately, the ship has been invaded by aliens and the life support systems have been damaged. You now have to reactivate these systems before the astronauts turn into real stiffs.
Reactivation is achieved by collecting 'thermolec valves' (different shaped objects) and plugging them into the cryogenic sockets (holes to plug in different shaped objects). With 24 chambers to be reactivated and only 5 initial replacement packs (lives), it's not a task that'll be completed first time out. You're going to have to get used to the screams of a lot of defrosting spacemen as they re-enter the atmosphere. Luckily, on the Speccy nobody'll hear them.
Any resemblance to any other Ultimate program is purely uncoincidental. And sure, you're going to think you've been conned by a clone when you first load it up. But once you're into the game you'll sec that it's much more complex than its predecessor and perfects all the techniques that Knightlore prepared us for.
So, now check out our map and start planning your movements with the microwave on legs.
Ultimate Play The Game
Forget the superficial lost-in-space flavour of the packaging, this game's more Castel Gondolfo than spaceship Nostromo. Not so much Alien 8 as Knight's Lore 2.
That said, Knight's Lore is the definitive arcade adventure and Alien 8 retains the chunky three-dimensional Filmation graphics which distinguished the original. Again you have to combine manual dexterity and a quick mind to solve the problems posed by each room before you can pick up a treasure or progress to the next chamber of the maze.
If you want to approach the game unaided stop reading now - and no sneaking a look at the maze map.
The plot such as it is derives loosely from the film. You control a robot padding around a craft carrying cargoes of deep-frozen cryonauts. Unfortunately assorted extra-terrestrials - clockwork mice, rodent daleks and the like - have unplugged the refrigeration.
To prevent your cryonaughts looking like a freezer full of fish fingers after a power cut you have to collect power packs shaped like pyramids, blocks, mushrooms and cheeses and plug them in to similarly shaped flashing sockets.
You can also use the packs as bulldozers to clear minefields or steps to help you jump higher - holding the jump key down can also help. Some of the steps vanish or sink - others are booby-trapped with an escalator effect which drifts you towards the nearest danger.
Perhaps the neatest new trick in Alien 8 is a 3D cursor pad on screen with which your android can direct another remote-control led robot to clear a safe path.
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