Better Dead Than Alien
Brad Zoom has landed on the red planet of Mars on April 1, 1954, four years after leaving Earth. On discovering the planet has a breathable atmosphere, Brad sets out to explore the surface, but, distracted by a giant mushroom (of the magic variety?), he has failed to see an alien taskforce until they are almost upon him! Brad, being the heroic sort, has fled from their attack to his spaceship, where he can begin the fight back.
Gritting your teeth as only Charlie Brown knows how, you take over control of Brad's Zoomship, which has freedom of movement over the bottom third of the screen. Waves of alien craft appear, and begin descent, Space Invaders style. These are despatched with your laser gun, with stronger aliens needing a number of hits before they explode. Hits received deplete a fraction of your energy, shown in the lower right of the screen as a bank of power bars, but crashing into an alien removes a whole bank of energy.
The aliens have glowing red highlights (just like Maff), but those which glow green release a Power Capsule - which recharges your Power Bars - or a Destructivity Intensifier capsule. This gives an additional weapon, of the eight available, which include Lazer Scatter Bolts, a Clone Ship, Shields, an Armour Missile, and Neutron bomb. The add-on weapon icon, in the right hand column, glows with the alien, and is highlighted when collected.
Every three waves, the player is confronted with either a meteor shower or a Master Alien. This large creature attacks, accompanied by salvoes of rockets, and requires many hits to be destroyed, but you have the freedom of the entire action screen.
To allow easy access to the higher of Better Dead Than Alien's 75 levels, a code word system is incorporated into the game. Before play, the word is entered, then you can begin battling against the nastier aliens immediately.
Take Space Invaders, add the manoeuvering area of Centipede, the add-on weaponry of Nemesis, give the graphics a 1988 16-bit look, then mix with a dash of Arkanoid, and you have Better Dead Than Alien!
It sounds like an unusual mixture, and unfortunately doesn't have the addiction of such a combination - but for what, on the face of it, is a very old idea, it's a highly playable hybrid.
Movement of both ships and missiles is unfortunately on the jerky side, and some of the graphics, particularly the backgrounds, could be better, but there's an overall polished, 16-bit feel. The samples that are present are intentionally amusing, it in short supply, and match the humorous all-round presentation. I can't rally say what was attractive about it - maybe it's the simple gameplay and the fun of taking part in two-player mode; either way, for a classic game with a modern feel, it's well worth having.
A Space Invaders game, in mid '88?! And on the Amiga?! Well, if the success of the many Breakout variants is anything to go by, it's perhaps not such a bad idea. On playing Better Dead Than Alien, I think I can safely say that it certainly isn't a bad idea.
Being given more room to manoeuvre somehow dispels thoughts of the first ever space shoot-'em-up, and the alien-blasting fun is very intensive.
The aliens vary from standard nasties to very unusual designs, and the rocky face Master Alien is positively cute - it seems a shame to shoot him!
My only doubts are in the lasting interest, as after a few hours' play, the action can get repetitive, even with the codeword system.
I'd try it out first if I were you - it appealed to our sense of humour and it had addictive qualities which you might not find.
Useful codeword system and a strange but amusing comic.
Sharply defined aliens but movement is a little jerky.
A few unremarkable samples.
An instantly playable update of a very old idea.
75 accessible levels but lacking overall variety.
Space Invaders with add-on weapons and greater manoeuvrability is a surprisingly enjoyable game. It's a little overpriced.