Yes my friends, at the height of Atari’s seemingly unstoppable glory, the 2600 system bowed down to the 1979 Ridley Scott film with its very own game for, at the time, the most in-demand toy on the market. Well, that is until E.T. got involved and most retro-gamers know all about that sad story.
Anyway, between 1982 and ‘83 the coveted wooden-topped box of video sorcery brought horror into your home 8-bit style with an array of horror movie based games for the system. With the slasher-genre mainstream leap that rocked the hell out of the decade, Atari hopped right on that gushing wave of gore and glory and rode out horror game titles based off THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and HALLOWEEN, (fun fact: the HALLOWEEN game is the first in history to showcase a legit head decapitation). So, of course, with the almighty slasher icons getting the pixelated treatment and space games running a great track record in Atari sales, it seemed inevitable that ALIEN would make its way into the world of 8-bit nightmares. And in 1982, the Xenomorphs were inducted into Atari history.
Birthed by FOX Interactive into the system that primarily became the reason us kids in the ‘80s opted to stay indoors on a sunny Saturday, the ALIEN game wasn’t your typical Atari shoot-em-up asteroid space game. As a matter of fact, it’s essentially just PAC-MAN rebranded. So in terms of uniqueness in relation to the other horror movie based games on the system, there’s no original thought there whatsoever. But that also doesn’t mean it’s any less fun either! In lieu of a floating hungry head, you’re directing a crew member in a maze designed to look like the inside of a spaceship. However, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any real difference other than the blue background vs a black one. Inside this “spaceship”, adult aliens have breached and are littering their egg spawns all over the damn place and it is your goal to destroy the eggs by simply running over them while avoiding running into one of three Xenomorphs in the maze. Yes, instead of those colorful ghosts, you got a beautiful pixelated Xenomorph.
Well, it kind of looks like one anyway.
Much like with the fruit bonuses in PAC-MAN, ALIEN has its own version flashing point grabbers in the form of nifty little planets and spaceships. However, one little awesome difference you WON’T see in the classic NAMCO game is that your human equipped with a flamethrower that will thwart off any pissed off mama aliens headed your way. The only downside is each flamethrower holds about three-four seconds of flamage and is rather useless when you enter the very far corners of the screen (it’s never worked for me). As for the pulsars, it’s the same as PAC-MAN whereas you run over one, the aliens become weak and that’s when you make your move. If you manage to destroy all the eggs without becoming space-food, you move onto a bonus round consisting of another alien-infested maze with the goal to locate an extra-power up to use later.
I think it goes without saying failure to destroy said baby eggs will result in game over man. Game Over.
Happy Alien Day!