Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold

First-person shooter games have been around since the 1970s, with titles at the time such as Maze War and Spasim. The genre, however, didn’t really establish itself in the gaming world until the release of id Software and Apogee’s Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, and given the title’s popularity, it was only natural that developers would produce imitators and spiritual successors, among them being Apogee’s Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, developed by JAM Productions, which isn’t the publisher’s strongest titles, given this reviewer’s impression of the shareware demo although it does have things going for it.

The first episode of Aliens of Gold features eleven levels, nine regular and two secret, with levels later than the first unlocked through red keycards hidden on each floor. As with Wolfenstein 3D, gameplay is first-person, with Blake able to acquire five different weapons with which to blast away the enemy, with collectable units recharging his current weapon. He also has hit points that max out at a hundred percent, and losing all health results in starting the current floor over from the start.

Fortunately, Blake is able to recover his health through items found throughout the floor and from food dispensers, with credits for these sometimes gained from killing enemies. The first-person shooter gameplay works well for the most part, although given the choppiness of the game visuals, it can sometimes be difficult to aim Blake’s weapon directly at the enemy, often resulting in unnecessary lost health. Overall, the shooter gameplay isn’t the strongest in the genre, although it certainly helps the game more than hurts.

The control scheme in Aliens of Gold is easy to get a handle of, although times for loading saved games and saving the player’s progress can be taxing, making tedious careful gameplay where the player wishes to save their progress often. Still, interaction is by no means bad.

Aside from backstory viewable from the menu and the story the player receives after completing the first episode, there isn’t much plot in between stages, but the narrative is hardly terrible.

Probably the high point of the game is the soundtrack, with plenty catchy tracks, alongside occasional voice clips for enemies that are decent.

As mentioned, the first-person perspective visuals are sometimes choppy and hurt the gameplay, although the enemies and effects contain nice design.

Finally, beating the shareware episode takes less than two hours, with the adjustable difficulty making for great replay value. Ultimately, Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold certainly isn’t Apogee’s strongest title, what with its choppy visuals often hurting it, although it’s definitely far from the company’s worst, and has things going for it such as the gameplay and aurals. The game is only playable on modern computers via DOSBox, the shareware episode available at 3D Realms’ website.

The Good:
+Good first-person shooter gameplay.
+Save-anywhere feature.
+Nice music and voicework.
+Great replay value.

The Bad:
-Long loading times.
-Choppy graphics that impact gameplay.
-Plot is scarce.

The Bottom Line:
A decent first-person shooter.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: MS-DOS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 5/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 2 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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