Alien Carnage

Once upon a time, this reviewer and his family purchased a computer that came preloaded with many Shareware titles developed by Apogee, from Wolfenstein 3-D to Hocus Pocus. Having been a fan of the latter title’s shareware episode, he convinced his parents to purchase him the full game, which came with a shareware demo of another Apogee title that was in development, Halloween Harry. Apogee would ultimately retitle the game Alien Carnage and release it as freeware, with the game proving to be on par with their other titles.

Alien Carnage features sidescrolling gameplay featuring the protagonist, Harry, as he must rescue a certain number of hostages during each episode’s primary four levels, and fight a boss at the ending level of each episode. If Harry hasn’t rescued all hostages in a level (with the game mercifully keeping track of how many hostages remain), then he cannot take the elevator to the next level. Harry’s initial weapon is a flamethrower, whose fuel also allows him to fly to upper platforms, with no jump ability being present. Each level has vending machines that dispense other weapons for a cost, with Harry acquiring money from defeating alien zombies, and refueling his flamethrower, at least on the easiest difficulty, being free.

Harry has an HP gauge that gradually decreases with damage taken, and when he loses all health, he dies and loses a life unless the player has activated a gray terminal, many of which appear in each level. Dying also forces the player to restart a level from scratch, and unfortunately, Alien Carnage doesn’t feature midlevel saving. The gameplay works well in spite of the penalty of death, not to mention the fact that during each episode’s boss battle, Harry loses all weapons other than his flamethrower. Regardless, the gameplay helps the title more than hurts.

Control in Alien Carnage is superficially decent, with the general gameplay interface being easy to get a handle of, although there is a telling lack of in-game maps, with the discovery of many secret passages being necessary to free hidden hostages and advance to the next level, not to mention an aforementioned lack of midlevel saving. Despite these flaws, interaction is slightly above average.

The story is okay, focusing on an alien invasion of Earth during which the aliens transform humans into zombies, with story scenes during startup and at the end of each episode. Better pacing of the storyline, with cutscenes, for instance, more common and in between levels, would have been welcome, with Harry occasionally finding floppy discs that give him a dialogue with his female boss Diane, though these don’t add too much to the plot. In the end, while the narrative was okay for the game’s time, it could have definitely been much better.

Apogee, as usual, does a nice job with the aurals, with believable sound effects and one voice clip that makes itself heard whenever Harry activates a terminal, and the music isn’t bad either, although it could have definitely been less repetitive.

The graphics are nice, with occasional animated cutscenes and believable designs for Harry and the alien zombie sprites, although there is some slowdown using the DOSBox program.

Finally, making it through the game can take around five hours, maybe more given the likelihood of more frequent deaths on higher difficulty settings, which in turn add replay value. Ultimately, Alien Carnage is a solid action title that hits most of the right notes, particularly with regards to its gameplay, soundtrack, and visuals, although there are aspects leaving room for improvement such as the graphical slowdown and poorly-paced plot. Apogee has since released the title as freeware, though, so those interested can download DOSBox and give it a try.

The Good:
+Solid sidescrolling gameplay.
+Good soundtrack.
+Nice visuals.
+Multiple difficulties add replay value.

The Bad:
-Repetition with death.
-No midlevel saving.
-No in-game maps.
-No story in between most levels.
-Some graphical slowdown.

The Bottom Line:
Another enjoyable Apogee game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: MS-DOS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours

Overall: 7/10

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