Ellen Ripley is back and she is ready for a fight. Alien 3 is a side scrolling platformer loosely based on the movie of the same name. Ripley is stranded on the prison colony and has to complete a series of objectives each level to survive the alien onslaught.
Alien 3 drops you right into the action and you are immediately hit with a sense of urgency as you notice the countdown timer. You have only a certain amount of time to complete the level’s objectives, and this encourages you to rush a bit more than you might normally. This works to your disadvantage as aliens quickly come from above, below, or to the side for running attacks that stun you momentarily. To help counter this, you have access to a motion tracker in the upper right corner of your screen. The key is to go slowly and keep an eye on that motion tracker.
To combat the alien threat, Ripley starts off the game with four different weapons, each of which has a limited amount of ammo though I did find in the first couple of levels that ammo refills were plentiful. Each weapon fulfills a specific role and handles very differently. I’m very pleased at how many times I switched weapons to handle different situations. This is not a case of picking a favorite gun and using it the whole game. The four weapons are:
- Pulse rifle – is your standard automatic rifle that shoots at waist height.
- Flame thrower – sends out a wall of flame that can hit anything in front of you, but is short ranged.
- Rocket launcher – fires a single shot at a time that goes in a straight line, but can do large amounts of damage.
- Grenades – can be tossed in front of you or dropped down shafts and will explode after a couple of seconds.
The controls are very responsive and can be remapped to your preference. By default, the A button cycles through the weapons, B button fires your weapon, and C jumps. After playing a bit more, I found that mapping A to firing weapon and B to jumping made a bit more sense to me so that the C button could be used for weapon cycling since it was not required as often.
While navigating the levels, Ripley can go up and down ladders, jump across small openings, crawl through tunnels, and ride on floating platforms. The maps are sizable and diverse with multiple rooms, passages, ladders, and tunnels to navigate. There are enough ammo refills scattered about that you should be able to maintain each of your weapons at over 50% capacity.
As I mentioned above, the aliens can be found through the levels and will each come running in from the side of the screen, pop up from the floor, or drop from the ceiling. Most of the time they attack while running past, but occasionally they will just stand over you and attack as soon as your recover. Each hit stuns you momentarily, which can make dealing with multiple assailants a real challenge.
Music and graphics are very impressive and I had no problem easily distinguishing the environments and the objects in the game. The screen is a bit busy with your weapon and ammo count, motion tracker, countdown timer, score, and energy level all competing for attention. Personally, I would have dropped the score altogether and placed the energy/weapon info in it’s place in the upper left hand section. The soundtrack is has a couple of really standout tracks to me including the Main Title, Stage 1, and Stage 4 tracks. The other tracks are passable and mainly feel like standard action platformer fare with nothing really distinguishing.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game even though the challenge level was a bit high for me initially. The more I played and became used to the aliens, the weapons, and the level designs, the more confident I became and the faster I was able to complete objectives. This is still one that I will gladly pick up and play more of in the future.