the fourth of his series of games you might
have missed Thomas Wellicome reviews this Dungeon
in the early nineties, at the peak of my spotty
greasy early teens I developed a minor obsession
with Dungeon Master style games. It started,
ironically enough, with Bloodwych, which I played
to death. The expansion pack soon followed.
Then I completed Chaos Strikes Back before Dungeon
Master, despite having no idea how the spell
system was meant to work, and having to use
a code breaking formula to work out how to cast
a spell. Captive, Ishar 1 and 2, BSS Jane Seymour,
Knightmlare, I just couldn't stop myself, I even
completed the PD game Dark Wars and nearly finished
Mystic Well. Despite having played these games
to death, Xenomorph kind of passed me by. I'd
seen it reviewed, it looked good, but I never
got hold of a copy. Enter the Tardis and shoot
forward ten years or so, and descend on the
delights of eBay, a small bidding war and one
duff copy, and then another small bidding war
and another copy (which this time didn't have
some sort of slimy scum all over the disk surface)
and here comes the review.
is basically Dungeon Master with guns. I'm pretty
sure this game was the first of its kind, predating
Captive by about a year, and just pipping the
similarly-styled BSS Jane Seymour by a few months.
There's a ropey Alien style plot line about
your character being sent out to take some distant
mining colony with supplies, only to have your
ship malfunction during hyperspace or something.
Your lovely character carries on to the colony
with the hope of getting the ship repaired,
even though the food deposits you were taking
to the miners (which were going to keep them
alive for the next year) were lost in the accident.
When you get there though you find that the
colony is a bit quiet. There are also nasty
looking things wandering around the corridors...
I'm being attacked by a gigantic
the game's quite good, in a cartoonish style.
The graphics pale in comparison to Captive,
but they're quite nice in their own way. The
images move in the usual Dungeon Master style
steps, though Xenomorph tries a bit of a flash
trick when you turn, scrolling the image onto
the screen in an attempt to give the impression
of realistic movement. It works reasonably well,
but does slow the movement quite a bit. The
actual view your character can "see"
takes up about a third of the screen, with the
rest being taken up with a status panel showing
various bars depicting whether you're about
to die or not, a movement button and two boxes
displaying the contents of your hands. You can
stick various things in here, ranging from a
variety of weapons, to motion detectors and
atmosphere readers. Yes that's right. It's not
just the aliens that are out to get you, or
the deranged remains of the crew. Even the blasted
space station's atmosphere is also trying to
if I could just find the cheese
and pickle sandwiches. I know
I packed them, they must be
in here somewhere. Hold this
industrial strength laser blaster
brings up a screen depicting the current contents
of your backpack. Neatly, while this is happening
your stats picture changes to the view your
character's seeing, which allows you to spot
that 20-foot alien trying to sneak up on
you. This is all just as well, as the backpack
is presented in a dodgy 3D style which makes
it virtually impossible to select the right
item you want, and you spend a lot of time in
it trying to pick the right object.
The objects you
pick up are detailed and reasonably well drawn.
Your character, however, seems to be part of the
way through a sex change operation, having a
rather curvy figure, but sporting an Arnold
Schwarzenegger style six-pack. To be quite honest
I think I would be more worried if I saw him/her
coming towards me down a corridor on a deserted
space station than if I saw six-foot alien with
acid saliva dripping from its six inch toothed
mouth doing the same! The aliens are probably
Er no, thanks
for the offer but I'd rather not have an egg
implanted in my stomach that will eventually
turn into a ten-foot tall alien, if that's OK
Speaking of aliens,
the ones on offer in this are a pretty grizzly
bunch. Everything from face-hugger style worms
that emerge from egg pods to corridor-filling
behemoths, not to mention everything in between.
Many of the monsters and droids that you come
up against go through various stages of evolution.
You can be strolling along, minding your own
business when all of a sudden you'll encounter
a series of eggs attached to a wall. One is
intact, one is about to hatch and the other...
ah yes that must be where my arms have just
Hmm, it seems
to be some sort of cocoon. An empty cocoon.
Now what sort of conclusions can we draw from
Er... that we're
in trouble is the conclusion, damn now where's
that laser gone, I can't find it in all these
cheese and pickle sandwiches...
All the monsters
are nicely drawn, but suffer from the usual
limited amount of animation of this genre. Not that it detracts from
the atmosphere a bit. What does are the somewhat
samey backgrounds. The corridors all look alarmingly
similar and it's easy to get disorientated,
but the same complaint can be levelled at most
dungeon games. Mapping is therefore an essential,
if rather tedious task if you want to progress
very far in this game. The action is controlled
with a cursor shaped like a hand. Irritatingly,
this makes it pretty difficult to click on things
as there is no "tip" to point at things with.
Fortunately when you shoot at the various ugly
brutes lurking in Xenomorph you at least get
a cross hair, and there's none of that irritating
wobble that BSS Jane Seymour had built in, meaning
you can at least hit the things you're aiming
In terms of sound
Xenomorph forgoes tracker music for long periods
of silence interspersed with spot effects. These
are OK but hardly earth-shatteringly, but
at least they didn't opt for a continous bit
of chip music playing in the background.
One of the game's
many food dispensers. Patent Zero G Coffee Perculator
eh? Sounds delicious.
Game-play is excellent,
there's a real sense of tension as you open
each door. The plotline is enhanced by various
computer disks you can pick up while in the
main game, each of which contains personal logs
written by various deceased members of the crew.
Just like Alien vs Predator on the Jaguar. The
game certainly makes you use your intuition
to work out exactly what is going on, and how
you're meant to fufill your goals of getting
off the space station. The manual itself is
deliberately vague, which could be a blessing
or a curse depending on your viewpoint. To be
fair, Xenomorph is kind of BSS Jane Seymour's
twin, you have to repair your ship while dodging
radiation and aliens in the process, but it
lacks all the irritating points like repetitive
action and those annoying droids.
time for a nap.
Bad points? Well
the main problem with using it on a single disk
drive system is the sheer hassle of swapping
the three disks. Xenomorph insists on loading
things from disk every time you go up or down
a level. This isn't much of a problem for most
of the game, however, on the first level, which
is your own ship, there are three floors and
a load of tiny rooms with ladders going up or
down to them. It's almost as if the programmers
wanted to put you off before you've started, as
you continually swap disks just to go up some
stairs to open an empty cupboard. Grrr. Once
you get into the game proper though, the disk
swapping virtually disappears with the vast
levels loaded in one go.
in Xenomorph are a tad annoying. The game insists
on closing them before you move away from them,
probably to show off the sound sample and animation
that occurs when you open or close them.
It's not really a problem, unless you've just
realized there's a giant slug right behind you,
but it's unnecessary nonetheless. The food and
water levels in the game also seem to shoot
down rather too rapidly for my liking. I had
to eat four or five large pizzas and six cups
of coffee to fill my bars up and they were virtually
empty 20 minutes later. The hero must have
the digestive system of a sperm whale!
I really enjoy
playing Xenomorph, it's probably the nearest
you'll get to Alien vs Predator on the ST. You
probably won't want to complete it more than
one or two times, but you'll have a lot of fun
in the meantime. It may lack dwarfs and hobbits
like Knightmlare, and isn't as good looking as
Captive (but at least it's possible to finish
it) or the Ishar series, but you won't regret
getting hold of this game if you're a fan of the
KB ST, two disk drives and hard disk supported
It's like Dungeon
Master with guns.
- Hard disk installable,
which improves gameplay no end (unlike BSS Jane
Seymour which was ruined by disk swapping).
- Not an elf in
sight, and if one turns up you can just shoot
Too many disk
swaps for a single-drive ST.
- Graphics and
sound could be better.
- If you hate Dungeon
Master, you'll probably hate this.