After recieving a distress call from a far off space station, two agents are dispatched to investigate. Upon arrival, they find that an alien infestation has taken over and has spread to the colony on the planet below. Now, the mission has changed from investigation to search and rescue, as you head to the planet and vow to destroy the alien hive and rescue as many colonists as you can, before the alien menace finds a way to it’s ultimate destination:
Ocean had a long partnership with many Japanese video game companies, among them Nintendo, Data East, Konami (under their IMAGINE label) and, ultimately, Taito. Having converted many arcade games by the gaming giants to much success, such as Chase HQ, Gryzor, Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja, Rainbow Islands, Puzznic, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Mikie and Renegade, it seemed only right that Ocean, along with the outfit Images, converted Taito’s homage to the 1979 film ALIEN, the 1986 follow up ALIENS and John Carpenter’s 1982 cult hit THE THING. SPACE GUN is very similar to Taito’s earlier light gun games Operation Wolf and Operation Thunderbolt, in that you control a crosshair, and your job is to blow away any aliens that appear on screen into a big, green, gooey mess. And bloody good fun the arcade game was too.
Along the way, you have to rescue any survivors you come across, who will come running towards you shouting “help me!”. Avoid shooting these, and its bonus points ahoy! However, some morph into the aliens themselves (in a clever nod to The Thing) and come running at you. You also have smaller aliens running towards you that look like the facehuggers from ALIEN, that jump up at you when they can get close enough. Power ups can be obtained by shooting the pods that are on the walls in the background, and can range from energy to rockets.
One feature is that parts of the aliens themselves can be blown away, putting the odds in your favor. Limbs and heads can be blown away to slow them down in their advance towards you, giving you a better chance of survival. However, your gun can overheat if you keep your finger on the trigger for too long, bringing a bit of strategy to the game. If you overheat your gun at the wrong time, it’s game over as your precious energy gets zapped away by the crawling evil. You’ve also got gun turrets that appear every so often from the ceiling to rain down laser death upon you which need to be taken out. So, it seems they’ve taken over the systems too! Bloody smart, these ugly alien bastards!
THE SPECTRUM CONVERSION: what’s it like, then?
Awesome is one word to describe this game. Being it was converted in 1992, it pushes the spectrum to its limits (just like The Dark did 5 years later). The graphics are detailed, and the big alien bastards are huge, and look exactly like their arcade counterparts. The action is fast and frantic, as you try to judge when to stop blasting so your gun can cool down, and when to carry on and hope they explode into a big pile of goo. The explosions themselves are pretty awesome too, with balls of fire raining down when you use a rocket (which will be frequently!). Using joystick gives you more pin point control over the gun sight than the keyboard, and in a game like this its essential. Just like picking up every single pick up you can. The game is tough, and you’re going to need every single bit of health and rocket you can find. You also have a time limit which is always against you. Complete the level within the said limit, and you get bonus points, which can also be got from saving any survivors on the level. Save them all, and you get an extra credit.
Images have done the original a fantastic service. Its fast, its fluid, and plays extremely well. It has all the levels from the arcade original, no colour clash that the spectrum is famous for and is one of the best latter Spectrum games I’ve ever seen. It even has an intro and between level cut scenes to help tell the story, and its a cracking touch. The only downside is there’s no sound. At all. No music and no sound effects, no nothing. So it kind of takes you out of the experience a tad. Another thing is it’s too hard. With loads of aliens on screen, it’s a bit hard to keep track of your cursor, and you’ll end up going through all 3 of your credits in no time. Although once you get engrossed, you’ll have a lot of fun blasting away. Be warned though, the game is highly sought after by collectors, both in its original big box release form, and it’s Hit Squad rerelease. Both going for quite a bit of cold hard cash as the game is quite hard to come by. Mainly because it’s one of the last slew of releases by Ocean on the spectrum along with The Addams Family, Robocop 3 and Darkman.
So, why Should I Play It?
If you’re a fan of Science Fiction, blasting big ugly aliens, the Alien franchise and The Thing, it’ll be right up your street, that’s why! Apart from the lack of any sort of sound and the very high difficulty, it is a very good conversion and comes highly recommended.