This game looks for all the world like a title aimed specifically at, say, seven to ten year olds, with its two playful Casper the Ghost-like figures on the box cover. Whilst it is certainly a game that children will play and enjoy it's also one that adults shouldn't pass by too quickly, and particularly adults who are new to computer game playing.
Alien Incident (actually the title is quite adult sounding) is a game that does have a lot of child-like innocence, but at the same time the gameplay is absorbing and it's not so simple that many young-at-heart grown ups won't have a lot of fun playing it. This one is certainly a game for all the family, the wicked aliens really do resemble Casper the Ghost, I grew so fond of them I was sad they had to come to such a sticky end.
It's Halloween, a suitably dark night, when the story begins. You play the character of Ben Richards who is young enough not to know which way around to wear his baseball cap. You are assisting your mad-scientist Uncle with his latest outrageous experiment to whip up a Worm Hole in space to allow instant space travel. Lightning strikes at a crucial time during the experiment and enhances its effects ... in a distant galaxy the Entity slips through the resulting void, followed closely by a silver spacecraft.
On board the alien spacecraft the evil captain (he is evil, green and yucky) looks down on earth and cries out for vengeance. On his orders his hapless crew pinpoint the source of their dilemma and before long your Uncle is kidnapped so he can pay for his folly, and right the wrong that he has done. Very soon after your Grandfather suffers a similar fate and it's up to you to rescue your relatives and save the world from the threat of alien invasion.
Not surprisingly, saving the world isn't a straightforward task. The game is divided into two parts, with one major objective for each part and lots of minor hitches in between. In the beginning your task is to find a way to board the alien spacecraft in order to execute your rescue operation, and this entails a good deal of trekking around and some careful observation to collect the necessary objects. The problems aren't difficult, but they are fun to complete ... investigating that loose floorboard, finding passwords and various devices to open doors, waking your very sleepy neighbour, and getting the coordinates of the evil ship. There's even a visit to the graveyard and an underwater diving exercise before you get to the end of this section, and the final trek is through a maze, so keep a pencil and paper handy.
Unfortunately the second and final part of the game, on the alien spacecraft, is not as long as the first with correspondingly fewer obstacles barring your path. The game is a little on the short side and it would have benefited from a bigger serving of puzzlers here. But there's still a few problems to keep you busy for a while, and occupying the jailer could cause a few hiccups for novice players.
Alien Incident is a traditional inventory based adventure played in the third person perspective using either the mouse or keyboard. Navigating though the game is very simple. Just point and right click to move your character. There are no action icons as such, as a left click will take care of all the necessary things you want to do such as pick up or activate items (ie. press buttons) as well as initiate conversations. In conversation mode a list of questions appears at the bottom of the screen which you can select in turn to learn as much as you can.
The inventory is located beneath the picture window and inventory items are very easy to visually identify. In case of doubt, a left click will call up a text description of an item. And speaking of text, this game has text throughout (see below for more on this) for all dialogue which can be adjusted to appear on screen for a longer or shorter period. Only the short introductory sequence has no text. The game controls are easily accessed by selecting a disk symbol and from this screen you can load and save, quit, restart, or open the set-up menu for controlling music volume, text and mouse speed.
Note, there is no control for voices because, apart from the introduction, there are no voices in this game. Conversation is text based only, and even the short sequences that interrupt play occasionally and give you a window into your adversaries activities, are without voices. This was odd at first, but it didn't worry me one bit. I know that some of you may vehemently disagree, but I'd vote for text and no voices any day, as opposed to voices and no text, because with the former you can always be sure to understand every word ... you won't miss a vital clue.
Reading doesn't bother me in the least and somehow the lack of voices gives Alien Incident quite a nostalgic feel. Though it isn't as complex, it reminded me a bit of Zak MacKraken, for anyone who has played that wonderful old game. The story has a similar theme, and the intermittent 'flashes' to the alien ship to keep you informed, as well as the lack of voices, contributed towards this feeling.
Alien Incident has a good assortment of places to explore and things to do. Though not as high tech or high resolution as some recent games, the graphics are still evocative and work very well with the game. It isn't a game for experienced adventurers, it's definitely too easy and too short, but for younger players and anyone who is new to adventure game playing, it's great. Just remember ... shock ... horror :-) that there is no escape from reading!
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997.
All rights reserved.
Min: 386/25Mhz, 8 Mb RAM (or at least 3024kB of free memory) VGA card, 27 Mb free hard disk space.
Recommended: 486/66Mhz or faster, 8 Mb RAM, VGA + VESA Local Bus Card, SoundBlaster 16 soundcard.