Shortly after the advent of Atari's Gauntlet in the arcades, Sega jumped on the bandwagon and released a multi-player game of their own, the vastly inferior shoot-'em-up Quartet.
Sega's next multi-player game was Alien Syndrome, which, although far superior to Quartet, did not seem to go down quite as well. But this hasn't put The Edge off acquiring the conversion rights and releasing it under their new(ish) label, Ace.
The plot to Alien Syndrome has a nasty life force holding your buddies prisoner on a number of large space craft, and it's down to you and/or a mate to rescue them (the C64 version only being two player). So how does the C64 version compare with the arcade original? Surprisingly, very well.
You start by selecting which of the two characters you want to play, and are then transported to the first ship. Almost straight away, you find one of your comrades desperately waving for your attention. Rescuing a person couldn't be simpler; just run into him and he's transported off ship.
The main theme is to blast fast; if you take too long the ship will destruct and you'll be in more pieces than a jigsaw of the queen mum. The aliens themselves come in all shapes and sizes. On the first level, you're attacked by giant kidneys, while Level Two has rejects from the Alien movies, and the meanies on Level Three look like mutant muppets from Sesame Street. If you're in the mood for a real good weirdo barbeque, try grabbing some of the extra weaponry which adorns the walls of the space craft. Your normal gun can be boosted to a mega-blasting laser or you can always grill the kidneys with a fireball or two. By far the best weapon is the flame thrower, which is not so much a thrower but more of a solid rod of fire which juts out from your character. You can use this to 'whip' your alien antagonists.
Should our intrepid hero get hopelessly lost he can always refer to a deck plan which just so happens to be built into the walls. A small map appears in the corner of the screen showing the locations of your buddies as well as traversable routes.
When all the men have been rescued, you get to face, surprise surprise, a large, evil guardian. Most of the guardians are surprisingly well done, my favourite being the green heap whose head leaps at you after the body is destroyed.
When the guardian is out of the way it's time to move on to the next space craft and rescue more unfortunates. On the later ships you tend to find your little man having to negotiate difficult catwalks spanning a parallax scrolling pit. One slip and you plummet to your death.
Alien Syndrome is a competent conversion, and it's gratifying to see that it has come over so well on the C64. The graphics are nicely detailed and coloured, although some levels have been overdone and the sprites are difficult to see.
This is a worthwhile jaunt of pure violence that will definitely keep fans of the coin-op going for a long time to come.