Approximate Release Date: May 17, 1993
Developer: Probe Entertainment
Alien 3 is legitimately impressive in many ways but tedium sets in quickly.
Most movie tie-in games from the 90s were dire. Alien 3 tries something new by eschewing the expected left-to-right side-scrolling gameplay for a mission-based primitive pseudo-Metroidvania. I was not expecting to need to explore or figure out how to navigate a quest system when I booted up the game. It was surprising, in a good way. The fantastic graphics further help set positive first impressions.
Alien 3 has six stages, and they all have the same structure. Find a terminal, accept a mission, and then complete the objective. The objectives are simple and repeat from level to level. Rescue prisoners. Repair pipes. Destroy alien eggs. Repair fuse boxes. There’s not a lot of variety. It was tedious enough just watching the animations that go with each mission briefing. I love the concept, though.
The basic level design amplifies the tedium. Each level of Alien 3 starts the player in a central hub. The hub is just a series of hallways with doors scattered about, creating a wheel-and-spoke pattern. Each path leads to a numbered area, like Cell Block #4 or Corridor #17, and some of these rooms lead to other rooms. The biggest problem with this design is that once you go through Cell Block #5 to get to the quest objective in Furnace Area #7, you then have to walk back through Furnace Area #7 and Cell Block #5 to return to the hub. There aren’t many shortcuts to the hub in my experience.
It’s not complicated, and I never got actually capital-L lost. It was just tedious. I did often forget where I was going so I would need to return to a terminal and check the briefing for the name of the area I was looking for. A map and a quest log would have helped lessen the backtracking.
And then there are the aliens. They are everywhere in Alien 3, and there’s not a lot of variety. There are big ones that spit acid at you and little ones that jump at you. Enemies will often spawn just out of sight or behind the foreground elements and will come back after being killed once you take a few paces away from them. This makes backtracking laborious.
Ripley has a fun and effective arsenal at her disposal to combat these fellas. You have a machine gun, a flamethrower, and a grenade launcher and all of them feel good to use. Any one of these will easily dispatch the aliens as long as you have ammo so I found myself switching between the weapons often. None of the weapons can hit the tiny facehugger aliens unless you crouch, so I spent a lot of time crouch-walking everywhere. No single alien is a threat, but there are enough cheap hits with respawning enemies to chip away at your health as you play.
Alien 3 is ultimately disappointing. The game does some things well and there are some good ideas, but there’s just enough friction in most aspects of the gameplay to make playing the game a chore. Some more variety would go a long way here.
Next time: Will Batman Returns start a streak of interesting licensed games?