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Alien Incident

Alien Incident


    The title screen.The title screen.
Developer: Housemarque
Released: 1996.05.05
Genre: SciFi / Comedy
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Things can go only one way for our teenager protagonist Benjamin. It's Halloween Eve, it's bad weather and night time, and his uncle is one of those crazy inventors. It doesn't come as a big surprise that a wormhole opens up, bringing space aliens from another galaxy causing, well, an incident. So obviously Ben(jamin) must save his uncle who by now is in the hands of those aliens, and somehow undo the events that have taken place.

As the game is a comedy, it probably doesn't matter that much what the basic plot premise is, but as it is one of those "oops, this shouldn't have happened" stories often seen in the genre, it's a great starting point for a great adventure. And because the game indeed is a comedy, there will be lots and lots of amusing, entertaining, and funny moments during the course of the adventure.

The game opens with an animated cutscene that tells the starting point of the story and shows almost all characters in the game, which aren't that many. Oddly enough, the opening cutscene is voice acted, but the actual game and none of the other cutscenes are not. This gives the opening part some special cinematic feeling in comparison with the rest of the game, but as a design choice just having that one part voiced is a bit strange.

Benjamin, the protagonist.Benjamin, the protagonist.

When the actual adventuring begins, players are going to find pixel art that is very nice to look at and fits the game perfectly. Visually Alien Incident is certainly comparable to any game from the same era, and there's absolutely nothing to complain about with the graphics. Unless one wants to complain about some character animations here and there which are a bit clumsy, but nobody really pays attention to that, because to compensate that some other parts are super good.

And in the end, (hopefully) nobody plays adventure games just to look at nice graphics, it's puzzles that matter the most. And the puzzles in Alien Incident are humorous and mostly logical. Some puzzles involve a minimal amount of pixel hunting, but those are very few, most objects and hotspots in the game being very easy to find, but challenging to get or use. It's really a joy to play such puzzles. There is just the right amount of craziness and wackiness involved, like finding items in the fridge that really shouldn't be in the fridge. And there are of course funny references to all kinds of things, both in the puzzles and the story.

Lots of the humour and comedy in the game consists of science fiction references, most of which is related to Star Wars. There is almost an excessive amount of Star Wars jokes, but even for people who know more obscure things, the game has something to offer. Whether it's a subtle sentence in the dialogue that is related to the theory that alleged UFO abductions run in the family, or an item description that is referring to Star Wreck, the game has a lot to offer. And some things in the game are funny simply because of their bizarre nature, like the 24 hour antiques store.

Star Wars references.Star Wars references.

Alien Incident is also trying very hard to be very user-friendly. If the game crashes, there is a function that tries to restore the game close to the point where the crash happened. Even if it wouldn't be able to do that, just the attempt to have such a function is commendable. The control scheme is also trying to be very easy, although in doing so, it is ironically a bit confusing. Basically the left click is used for walking, and right click for looking and picking up objects, and also using them. However, where it gets a bit confusing is that when two inventory items need to be combined, that is done by left-clicking. Regardless of that, it is still one of the easiest control methods in adventure games.

With beautiful graphics, user-friendliness, and a great humorous science fiction story the game should be perfection, right? Sadly, it isn't perfect. The first half of the game is brilliant. But then there is a maze, and while it is certainly not the worst maze ever, and there are no deaths or dead-ends in the maze like nowhere else in the game either, it really breaks the flow of the game, as mazes usually do. And after the maze the latter half of the game feels different. This is partly because during the first half of the game the protagonist can carry three inventory rows' worth of items, but after the maze there will be a part when he is carrying only three. Also the puzzles degenerate from funny and entertaining to running back and forth, for example going from room A to room B, where a button needs to be pushed to have a reaction in room A.

Alien incidents.Alien incidents.

The quality in the game really seems to be front-loaded starting with a voiced cutscene and best puzzles, and going from there backwards, never really going bad, but just becoming less good. It can be assumed that at least part of the development was rushed, as there are also some interactable objects that are not really needed, and some items become unnecessary when picking up other objects. There are some inconsistencies with game logic too. For example, conversations are usually started by the player, but when entering the 24 hour antiques store, the conversation is automatically started. Even worse, the storekeeper is trying to sell one item only, even before the protagonist necessarily knows he will need to have that. It is admittedly hard to find the right balance on the issue of whether some thing needs to be completed to trigger a following action, or whether it is possible to do things before even logically knowing the need to do such things. Many games get this wrong one way or the other, and so does Alien Incident, unfortunately.

One thing needs to be said about Alien Incident. Even with its minor problems, it is still a brilliant effort, and one of the best games ever of its own kind. Because of the described issues, it's unlikely that anyone will label it as the #1 best adventure game ever made, but there wouldn't be too many people to call it a bad game. Many games of notable reputation are much worse. Just thinking about Alien Incident feels nice, because it's such a charming game.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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