Tuesday 26 November 2019

Alien Syndrome (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: SIMS
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1992

Alien Syndrome is an overhead run 'n' gun game that was originally released in the Arcades in 1987.

It's 2089 and playing as either Ricky or Mary you must destroy the alien space fleet that's threatening the human race. There's seven rounds and the objective in each is to rescue the hostages and head for the exit before time runs out. To attack aliens, you're armed with a short range combat rifle, but upgrades (such as FlameBalls and Lasers) are available by collecting icons. The gameplay is a mixture of Maze Hunter 3D (1988, Sega Master System) meets Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993, Sega Mega Drive) and it moves at a brisk pace with super responsive controls. The ability to improve your weapon is a great touch for added strategy and I like that you can fire in eight directions. This handheld port has a number of superb additions that weren't in the shoddy Sega Master System version, such as smooth scrolling as you move around the playfield. It also includes the ability to bring up a map screen at any time to see where the remaining hostages are located; this is vital to beating the clock and it stops you from wandering aimlessly. The level design isn't particularly special, but I do like Stage 3's layout which connects spherical platforms and walkways that must be carefully navigated to avoid falling to your death. The game's main downfall though is in its severe difficulty spikes; while the rescue sections aren't too tough, the bosses are on the opposite end of the spectrum, as they shoot projectiles at an incredible speed, giving you barely any time to react. This is the case right from the opening battle and it can be aggravating to quickly lose all your lives and have to replay the entire stage over.

Alien Syndrome on the Sega Game Gear is a massive improvement over its 8-bit console counterpart and it successfully translates an appealing concept into a highly playable game. It can be overly punishing during boss battles, but there's still plenty of fun to be had thanks to the respectable level design and solid controls.

Random trivia: This Sega Game Gear port was only released in Europe and Japan.

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