When Alien 3 first hit theaters, expectations were high. James Cameron’s Aliens took everyone’s favorite space monster franchise to an entirely new level and created one of the most iconic cinema experiences of all time.
These were big shoes to fill, and unfortunately director David Fincher couldn’t quite deliver. Alien 3 had some good ideas, but was let down by questionable pacing and plot decisions. The companion game, however, doesn’t have these problems and is quite fun.Developers Probe Software first launched Alien 3 for the C64, Genesis and other consoles and later decided to update the game and make it an SNES exclusive.
You play as Ripley, who is trapped on a planet which doubles as a maximum-security prison, after your escape plan goes horribly wrong and you crash land into the sea. To makes things worse, you’ve now brought the Aliens along for the ride and things go from bad to worse quickly. The Aliens have now basically taken over the planet, slaughtering some of the inhabitants and imprisoning others. To bring down this threat, you have at your disposal an automatic rifle, a grenade launcher, a flame thrower and the badass gun contraption that Ripley makes at the end of the Aliens film. You’ll need every single inch of firepower you have, because there are literally millions of Xenomorphs wandering around this prison planet. To make navigation a little easier, you also have a torch and a motion tracker.
The noticeable difference between the SNES version and the other versions of this game is that here the campaign plays out as a mission-based progression. You’re traveling through the complex and each level puts you in a different section of it. Within the hallways of this complex, you will find different terminals that will offer you the tasks/list of things you need to do before you can move on. You can move through these tasks in any order – most of them are some variation of destroying alien eggs, rescuing prisoners, gathering power packs and fixing damaged pipelines. There are no time limits here, unlike the other versions of this game. This is a welcome change, since the time limit combined with the difficulty of navigating through a new section would make things unpleasant. Each of the levels is based in a group of hallways that lead to certain corridors or rooms that you need to get to.
Throughout the six different levels that the game offers, there is a lot of variety of gameplay and missions that you can accomplish. You’ll often have to go to two or three separate locations to complete a mission, and the reasons for this are usually well explained by the plot. There are rooms with ammo and health kits within these stages, and it is helpful to remember where they are so you can either swing by them on your way to doing something else, or come back to them if you’re hurting. Some missions will require you to seal doors shut so that unpleasant, acid-spitting, blood-thirsty monsters don’t get in where they shouldn’t.
Ah.. The Aliens
The Xenomorphs themselves come in all shapes and sizes, corresponding to different stages of growth in the alien life cycle. Facehuggers are nimble and jump out of eggs, and need to be killed while you’re crouching. Smaller Xenos are fast and spit acid projectiles. Fully grown aliens are fast, deadly and behave exactly as you would expect – crawling on ceiling, camping and pouncing when the opportunity presents itself. They are also colored differently to denote their power level. Once you’ve got the hang of things, their movement and attacks won’t really surprise you a lot. The enemy AI isn’t very sophisticated, and you can basically predict what’s going to happen once you see the enemies that you’re up against.
While health packs are scattered liberally across the game, things become difficult quickly. You might jump and dodge your way in the initial levels, but pretty soon, you will come up against aliens that are crawling along on the floor and the ceiling. And there’s only one way to get through them – blow everyone to the depths of hell, Ripley-style.
They are great and the SNES’ enhanced computing power allows for some memorable visuals. Hallways look dark and gritty, and the shadows around the corners hide vicious creatures. The sound is also great – weapon effects and alien screeches sound fittingly cinematic.
While Alien 3 might be hurt slightly due to the repetitive nature of the gameplay, there’s still plenty of stuff to enjoy here. Fighting mother aliens is a lot of fun, especially when you have a limited arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Much like the movie it’s based on, Alien 3 for the SNES is a mashup of good ideas that is occasionally let down by a lack of imagination. If you’ve got some time to kill (pun intended) on the weekend, pick this one up.
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