James Cameron's Aliens turned 30 this year. That's a scary thought in and of itself, but few games have succeeded in bringing the frightening exploits of the Xenomorph home. That's not to say that many have not tried. Out of the numerous games based on the franchise the most obscure by far is this little known adventure by Cryo Interactive titled Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure.
So, why that subtitle? Well Mindscape, the publisher, couldn't get the direct rights to the movie franchise from Fox themselves. Their in-house development team were in the early stages of creating the excellent Alien Trilogy so were reluctant to give it up. Instead they looked to Dark Horse Comics where a possible loophole meant they could use the plot and universe used in the highly regarded Aliens: Labyrinth graphic novel instead. It was a loophole that proved fatal for the company because not long before the game hit shelves, Fox sued their asses for copyright infringement. The outcome of this suit was that there could only sell the stock they had so far (about 120,000 copies) with no re-prints, zero marketing and any further work - including the planned French and German translations - to cease. Mindscape itself continued on, but nearly all of their US and UK staff were let go.
This has made the game somewhat rare. It's something of a blessing really because it's not really all that good, even with a license rich in potential. Cryo had become known for putting style over substance with some of the most beautiful pre-rendered graphics at the time. Sometimes they lucked into a decent game (Dune, Atlantis: The Lost Tales) but most other times they released the gaming equivalent of a supermodel - good to look at but not to spend too much time with.
The plot is a sequel of sorts to Aliens: Labyrinth where a group of scientists studying the alien Xenomorph fall prey to the unpredictable beast. The crew of the USS Sheridan, a four-man terraforming team, respond to a distress signal on the remote outpost of B54-C and this is where our Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure begins.
For a 1995 game, it does showcase some stunning visuals in places, but it all too often delves into some of the most amateurish artwork I've ever seen in such a big-budget title. The backgrounds and the alien itself are all CGI and look decent enough, but characters are all hand-drawn 2D still images. They're rarely animated and when they are it makes South Park look like a Disney movie. Combine that with an art style reminiscent of my bored biology class doodles at age 14 and it's shockingly bad. There are some especially wonky facial features when any attempt at portraying emotion is displayed.
Believe it or not, this is all the same person.
The game initially plays like a standard point and click adventure but later on some light RPG elements crop up. The first clues that another genre is creeping in is in the character relationships. Each crew members has their own stats, one of which details whether or not they like you. It's called morale but only events directly related to you affect it. So basically it's a popularity contest. They're also hungry so you have to keep providing them with burgers from a vending machine. 'Cos they can't get off their asses and get it themselves. Despite this mechanic, I began to actively hate each and every one of them. By the time the alien came on board I was begging for it to kill them one by one.
As Henrickson (do you see the Aliens reference?) most of your time is spent conversing with your three other crewmates, Lars (the facial contortionist above), O'Connor and Williams. Lars is the Captain of the USS Sheridan, but somehow he skirts the majority of his responsibilities on to you. O'Connor is the suspected android with a personality to match and Williams is the angry token female. Basically, the other crew members hit on her and she's having none of it.
Alas you need them alive as they'll join your party and help fight back. About halfway through the game combat comes into play dumping new mechanics on you with little time to adjust. The game switches to an isometric viewpoint where you can attack or defend yourself with basic moves. Think something like a super-stripped down Diablo and you're on the right track.
It appears I'm not the only one who's soiled themselves.
These sections make me think that the initial idea for Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure was a flat out RPG, but somehow the adventure elements took over. They're blatantly under-baked and have no reason to be included at all. In fact, the creepy alien encounters that play out strictly in adventure mode are by far the most successful parts of the game or at least better than the boring fight scenes. I believe this was one of the only game in the franchise where that make an effort to truly scare you (at least until Alien Isolation). It should at least be commended for doing something different to the non-stop action of the other games.
That in itself may be reason enough to give the game a try. It certainly was for me. Just don't expect too much depth beyond it. The characters, combat, puzzles and gameplay are all rather dire but at least the aliens go "BOO".
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 1.14 Gb. Install Size: 1.3 Gb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Aliens: A Comic Book Adventure is © Cryo Interaction
Aliens (the movie) is © 20th Century Fox
Aliens: Labyrinth (the Graphic Novel) is © Dark Horse Comics
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me
You have used version 1.0 of the game, without applying the patch that updates it to version 1.0.3. Have you done it for some reason?ReplyDelete
I have. From what I played 1.0.3 crashed quite often, no matter what Soundblaster option I chose. The intro also screwed up a little too, with some of the subtitles being in German. I couldn't quite figure out a way to solve it.Delete
1.0 does crash using Soundblaster 16, but not with the original. The music's not as good but that's the only real difference I could see (it's a fairly buggy game no matter what version you play). As far as I know, it's as stable as I can make it.
I may play around with other DOSBox builds when I have the chance to see if that helps, but time's not on my side at the moment.
Absolutely awesome blog man, great work on getting some of these games run, specially Fable which I remember was really annoying me back in the day. If you are looking for any problemtic games to fix then check out Revenant:Delete
"There is only one way to play this game perfectly: running it on an old computer. I've tried other methods and here's my report:
[ Windows 7 x64 ]
The 3D accelerated mode either crashes the game or runs with very corrupted graphics. The software renderer is too dark, some lighting effects and colors are bad and there's a pink countorn on HUD elements. The music and sound effects plays fine.
[ VMWare - Windows 2000 Guest ]
The Direct3D renderer is glitchy and the software renderer looks good, but both runs slowly on WMWare. The CD music doesn't work (I've tried the original CD-ROM, making bin/cue images, etc, nothing works). Sound effects are fine.
[ Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 - Windows 98 SE Guest ]
Since this virtual machine doesn't emulate a 3D accelerator, I can only run the software mode. Thankfully it looks almost perfect (there're a few barely noticeable clipping issues) and runs great. The only problem is the lack of CD music (same problem as on VMWare). Sound is great.
I believe the last solution is the best if you don't have an old PC. That's why I decided to record a little bit of Revenant running on Virtual PC (the music was added on video editing). "
Hey BIffman, I absolutely love your blog, thank you for all your hard work!ReplyDelete
Thanks Robin! Wish I could afford to spend more time on it!Delete
Thank you so much for this blog. I could get some games to work with Recalbox but not this one as I am unable to install it from windows to the recalbox folder. Is there a way to get that to work? Also, the setup returns and Antivirus alert so I had to inactivate it.ReplyDelete
Hello! Glad you like the Chamber! I've not heard of Recalbox so I can't help you there I'm afraid.Delete
As for the antivirus, I believe that's likely to be a false positive. Some programs look for whether a program is from a registered company and anything else is deemed 'unsafe'.
Here's a little info about that phenomenon
I assure you, my computer is clean and every file is created in pretty much the same way though I understand if you don't want to risk it.
Everything is nice, except you don't get green card at beginning, so you can't complete game. Consider this as a demo and not full game:)ReplyDelete
Just did a bit of research and Henrickson shouldn't start the game with the card (don't follow the IGN walkthrough!). You get it from Lora. Just did a quick test and the following walkthrough is correct.Delete
THX very much!Delete
hi dude, i have a issue trying to install the game. During the final process of installation (99%) stop in run.exe file. What can i do to fixed?ReplyDelete
Version 1.0.3. goes well on dosbox SVN 0.74 with settings "ALIENS.CFG"ReplyDelete
DeviceName = Sound Blaster 16 STEREO
DeviceIRQ = 7
DeviceDMA = 5
DevicePort = 0x220
DeviceID = 0xe018
DeviceName = MPU-401
DevicePort = 0x330
DeviceID = 0xa001
Pre-load = No
Lecteur = H
When I click "introduction" it asks me to insert disk 2. Is there a way to do this, because I can't seem to find one.ReplyDelete
Press Ctrl-F4 to swap CDs. Read the Chamber FAQ for other useful bits.Delete
You've done a fine job balancing the various issues with this game. As mentioned earlier, upgrading to 1.03 breaks more things than it fixes, and frankly, without someone basically rebuilding this thing from scratch, there's no way to get it to work WELL.ReplyDelete
As a bit of history... this was the very first game I ever purchased which I truly regretted buying, and which (until the advent of VMs) went into "cold storage" for many years. Despite the guy claiming that the only way to get it to work right is to run it on an old computer... nope. There is NO way to get this piece of... bovine feces... to run properly, on ANY machine configuration. But you're right... not installing the "update" makes it more stable than otherwise.
Out of every game I've ever played... and I've played MANY... this rates dead last on my list of "quality games."
It does have a few mildly redeeming features, which you mention. I suspect that a remake... keeping the content and design but reworking the engine's horrendous bugginess... could turn it into a "B-" level game, suitable for a sub-$10 price tag on GOG or the like.
One thing that's abundantly clear is that this was designed and developed in Europe... I THINK it was done in France... and fairly carelessly ported to other languages. That's how, no doubt, the v1.03 patch managed to get both English and German elements integrated. Slipshod, rushed patching without subsequent testing (at the time, very rare, but all too common these days).
It has the feel of a Moebius comic strip... from the old "Heavy Metal" days... rushedly translated into a pseudo-adventure, and THEN, as almost an afterthought, other languages being tacked on. The "robo-combat" portion of the game, to me, felt utterly tacked on and unrelated to the main game, but unlike your take on things, I always got the impression that the "combat" part was the afterthought, not the "adventure game" part. Almost as if the dev had some unused "combat game" code just lying around and shoveled it into this game after getting feedback that the game, as originally imagined, was just boring.
There's reason to think that's the case, too, as illustrated by how they also shoehorned in a version of "Reversi" (aka "Othello") into the game. It serves literally no purpose, but it's there, and prominently there, no less. It's as if they were just taking any spare code from cancelled projects they had and merging them into this one shipping project.
Today, I've seen a FEW games I dislike more than this one... but not many. Still, it's worthwhile to check out, in the same sense that it's worthwhile to slow down and gawk while driving past a particularly bad traffic accident. Or in the same sense that some especially bad movies gain some value when watched with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and later "Rifftrax") guys providing color commentary.
It's bad. REALLY bad. But almost bad enough to be "so bad it's good."