Alien Syndrome

“Alien Syndrome” was a fun arcade game back in its time – a bit of a variant on “Gauntlet”, and definitely inspired by the likes of “Aliens”. You have to go from ship to ship saving your comrades in arms within a time limit, collecting different kinds of weapons and then using them to mess up various and interesting bosses. Going back to play it nowadays, it’s still fun, but probably not as good as you remember. Certainly it’s not as timelessly cool as “Gauntlet” or “Out Run” or “beating off to repeats of Baywatch on your living room couch”, whichever way your tastes lie.

Sega have brought “Alien Syndrome” back for a new generation – Wii and PSP owners. I’d say “I haven’t tried the PSP version”, but according to most accounts, the Wii version looks and sounds identical, which is rather disappointing. When will people rise and take up arms against the cheap PS2/PSP port oppressors and demand that Wii’s capabilities be stretched? This is not to say that it’s completely hideous – I’ve certainly seen less attractive generic corridors in shades of brown and grey, and more indistinctly generic creature designs in shades of brown, but … wow, did I mention all the brown? The “alien syndrome” referred to in the title must have something to do with colour blindness.

The game is another variant on the console Baldur’s Gate idea – essentially a dungeon crawler where you build up experience and collect items of various power and utility. The Wii version has a few minigames to make things (at least briefly) interesting. You have to play a minigame to increase your character’s stats when you encounter DNA mixing machines, involving blasting away bad germs and dragging new capabilities to your DNA strands – it’s fun, at least once you work out how to do it, and for the first few times after that. A somewhat similar minigame is used for unlocking chests – place beacons to attract nanites to corrupted parts of locks and energize them while zapping bad germs with nunchuck motions. Integration of the Wii controls into the standard gameplay itself isn’t too bad – the ability to move with the analog stick and aim your projectile/laser/flame/whatever weapons with the Wiimote is nice and works well, but angling the camera can be dodgy with nunchuck motions, and the hand to hand combat is a bit aggravating.

I bought this from an eBay auction for about half what it normally goes for in stores here, and I have to admit I’m not exactly sitting around thinking how awesome I am for owning it. Still, my loyalty to favoured arcade games of the past and Sega in particular demands that I check these kinds of things out – just learn from my example, instead of the hard way. Don’t waste your time unless it’s in the $10 bin, or you really, really love dungeon crawlers that do practically nothing new or interesting beyond a couple minigames - and if you have a Wii and aren't bored of minigames yet, you should watch more American TV or listen to some nu-metal, as you're obviously easily pleased and scared of innovation.

An extra bonus, some YouTube footage of the game in action, from its trailer.

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