Alien Ramapge is the sort of game that I would have loved back in 1993. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play it in 1993 because it wasn’t release until 1996. That’s three years after Doom had made its debut, two years after WarCraft and X-Com, and by 1996 those games even had sequels. The gaming market had moved well beyond side scrolling shooters and into the age of 3D and RTSs. Alien Rampage entered the market far too late. Perhaps the developers were hoping to revive an abandoned genre. Perhaps this game had an inordinately long development cycle. But whatever the reason, this marks the first and last game associated with the development team of “Inner Circle Creations.”
This game could have really held its own had the playing field been a bit more level. It boasted 5 level multi-parallax scrolling backgrounds, smooth controls, innovative aiming scheme and gore, lots of gore. Take a hold of one of your seven available weapons and blast a flame breathing snail or alien eating plants or clicking crablike monster or laser wielding lizard man and you’ll be rewarded with a shower of viscera. But not everything that moves is your enemy. A strange little man in a cloak will sell you weapons with the coins you’ve collected. Friendly wyverns will carry you on their back through the jungle. There are also Moorgs around, brutish local slaves who will often help you if you free them. The Moorgs will open doors you can’t stand on buttons for you, give you coins, and in at least one case (in the first level) hunch over for you to stand on their back to reach a high ledge.
The plot of the game starts when the alien anti-hero, who looks like the child of Kermit the frog and Gene Simons, is shot down over a primitive planet and vows to avenge himself as he looks for the parts to repair his ship. Not that he needs the excuse. My guess is this guy would level the planet just because there is nothing on TV but re-runs.
The puzzles in the game are pretty standard, find the switch, get the key, and go to where you couldn’t before. It’s not always obvious what the affect of a certain switch is, so you may have to hunt around a bit. Usually it’s not so bad and you don’t backtrack very much unless you just have no idea what that last switch did or you keep falling through the same gap to an earlier part of the level. The game does a good job of giving you enough play time. All 20 levels are fairly expansive and the puzzles insure you don’t just zip through.
In 1996 this game would have needed to be much more innovative than it was if it wanted to succeed against the giants of the time. But that’s no matter now. Time, the great equalizer, has lessened the punch of those heavy hitters and now we can enjoy this game that we may have passed over before on its own merits.