$5, $10 and $20: Get Your Giger On

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Do you like buying Sega games? Do you often find yourself buying games for your collection in replace of food and then eating the paper manuals because you’re so hungry?

Well, my new regular feature “$5, $10 and $20” can help you out! Every month, I’ll be highlighting three games that cover a variety of price ranges so you can add games to your collection without breaking your budget. These three games will often follow a theme and give anyone who has an extra $5 a month or more a few games to check out.

This month, I’ll be highlighting a group of games inspired by or directly worked on by the late H. R. Giger and his artwork. Hit the jump to read on about some games that put Giger’s iconic Alien designs to good use and an original adventure game designed with direct involvement by the artist himself.

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Alien 3

Platform: Sega Genesis
Developer: Probe Software
Publisher: Arena Entertainment
Year Released: 1992
Amazon.com Price: $2.00 – $6.00

Based on my least favorite film in the Aliens franchise (yes, I prefer Resurrection to 3), Alien 3 for the Sega Genesis is a surprisingly well made and atmospheric licensed game. In many ways, Probe Software took Sega’s popular Alien Syndrome formula, where you rescue crew members while fighting against enemies and a time limit, and changed things up by making Alien 3 a 2D sidescroller rather than Alien Syndrome’s top down viewpoint.

What Probe came out with is one of the closest games to be labeled survival horror on the Genesis. The graphics and animation are top notch with Giger’s influential xenomorph and environmental designs captured nearly perfectly in all their 16-bit glory. Everything is dark, green and quite gory for a Genesis game, which just makes the feeling of dread as the timer ticks down all the more foreboding.

Unfortunately, it’s not all peaches and roses. While the game looks and plays great when you first pick it up, the game never seems to change things up to much as you progress. Every level is basically a large maze where you have to perfectly plan out your attack to rescue all your crew members within the given time limit while not being completely annihilated by the xenomorphs. It’s also quite difficult so expect to play the same levels quite a few times as you figure out the perfect path to completion.

Should you buy it?: The game is quite common these days so you can probably pick it up for a low price. If you’re an Aliens fan, then this is a no brainer as it’s one of the better games under the license. In addition, if you like solid action platformers with controller breaking difficulty, this game may also be for you. All others need not apply.

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Alien: Infestation

Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Wayforward
Publisher: Sega
Year Released: 2011
Amazon.com Price: $8.00 – $13.00

When Sega obtained the Aliens license a few years ago, I was pretty excited. Here was my favorite publisher and one of my favorite film franchises teaming up to deliver a series of interactive media releases to whet my appetite. Unfortunately, with Alien vs. Predator and Aliens: Colonial Marines, that hasn’t worked out so well, but at least there was Alien: Infestation for the Nintendo DS, the one good Alien game Sega has published (so far).

Taking design queues from Metroid and latter-day Castlevanias, Alien: Infestation is a 2D action sidescroller that is heavy on exploration, story and atmosphere. As you progress in the game the world slowly opens up as you explore, backtrack and complete required objectives, a la, the game franchises mentioned previous. But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing original here.

One of the most unique selling points of Infestation is the way the game deals with death. Instead of multiple lives or continue options, you are given a team of up to nineteen Marines and when one dies, they’re dead forever. If you run out of Marines, you lose. Wayforward even went the extra step and gave each Marine their own unique personality and dialogue, slightly altering how the story may unfold and what dialogue you’ll read during certain portions of the game.

You will be needing those nineteen Marines too, as this game is not easy by any standard. While not quite as difficult as the Genesis game, mainly due to improved game design, you will find your Marines slowly dying off as the xenomorphs, face huggers, androids and other enemies hunt you down. It doesn’t help that this game has one of my biggest gaming pet peeves, respawning enemies.

Should you buy it?: Yes. Not only is this quite possibly the best Aliens game in existence, it is also one of the best games on the Nintendo DS. It came out at an unfortunate time as the 3DS was starting to get all the attention in 2011 and I’m sure many gamers completely missed out on what is a very rewarding experience. Wayforward plus Aliens equals a game worthy of your ten bucks.

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Dark Seed

Platform: Sega Saturn
Developer: Cyberdreams, Inc
Publisher: GAGA Communications Inc.
Year Released: 1995
Amazon.com Price: $15.00 – $25.00

Released only in Japan for the Sega Saturn, Dark Seed and its sequel are point-and-click adventure games designed with heavy involvement from Giger. And while the Saturn port was never released in English speaking territories, it’s still quite playable as the Japanese version is only subtitled in Japanese with the English voices remaining.

The game’s plot revolves around the recent purchase of a small town mansion by the main character, Mike Dawson, who wants to become a writer. However, during his first night in the mansion he has an intense nightmare where an alien seed (or maybe a “dark seed”) gets implanted in his ol’ brain. Needless to say, it turns out this was more than just a nightmare as the story unravels and reveals Mike really does have a seed in his head and it’s in his best interests to get rid of it.

The game’s story and artwork are topnotch and Giger’s involvement is seen throughout this horror adventure game. I often wonder if it’s a little bit autobiographical too as Giger was known to have night terrors for most of his life and the fact that this entire plot revolves around the main character’s nightmare seems to draw direct comparisons.

Unfortunately, playing the game is not really that fun and the reason can be directed at one specific design element, the decision to implement time limits on when certain actions must take place. If you miss an event, the game will become unwinnable and you will find yourself replaying this game a lot. Even with a walkthrough it’s a chore. I understand the concept and can see how it adds a layer of tension not often found in point-and-click adventure games but Dark Seed takes it to a whole new level.

Should you buy it?: Probably not for a myriad of reasons. First of all, you’ll need a way to play a Japanese Saturn game. Then there’s the price, which isn’t overly expensive but still above average for a Saturn game. And last, the game is so ridiculously hard that you’re better off watching a YouTube playthrough rather than struggle through yourself. With that said, if you’re a massive Giger fan or you love your point-and-click games with a side of the sadistic then maybe it’s worth checking out. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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