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Alien Research Centre - Review

Review by Denk

Ratings

Parser/Vocabulary
6
Cruelty
Tough
Puzzles
8
Overall
8
Written:
12-01-2021
Last edited:
Platform:
Spectrum

Before you read on, here are a few facts:

1. Location graphics for all rooms (8-bit quality)
2. Brief location descriptions
3. Two-word parser (but fast)
4. Inventory limit (9 objects, hardly a problem)

This game was really fun. You are exploring an abandoned alien research centre which has been taken over by various grotesque creatures. Though the location descriptions are brief, the atmosphere is good due to the graphics and sound effects. And if something significant changes in a location, the location graphics change too. And if there is something you can interact with, it is mentioned in the location descriptions.

The game is a puzzlefest and there isn't much of a story. But the puzzles are good and there are lots of them. You will need to guess a few verbs, but you will most likely get them right either the first or the second time around as they are usually quite obvious. In my opinion, only one puzzle required an unexpected command: The command "kick floor" isn't obvious to me, even though we are told that the floor is partly eaten away by some substance. You might kick a wall or door but not a floor. I would have expected Jump, Stomp or Break Floor to work but only "kick floor" seems to work. Anyway, how difficult a game should be is always a matter of taste. I found the difficulty level just right. I did peek at a walkthrough a few times as I was eager to get on with the game, but I usually regretted it as the puzzles are all fair.

Though there are plenty of ways to die, you will rarely die unexpectedly. Whenever you encounter an alien you have one turn to leave if you don't know how to deal with that alien. Still, you should save often. I played with the Fuse emulator and here saving a snapshot was only a click away.

It is my impression that the game can be made unwinnable in at least one way, but then it will be obvious that a part of the game isn't accessible anymore, so if you have been saving often, it isn't a big deal. Only one puzzle seemed to contain a random element, but that made sense for this particular puzzle and didn't prevent me from winning if I didn't get it right the first time.

Everything considered I think this a great game. As I never had a ZX Spectrum, I hadn't heard about this game until recently, but now that I tried it, I wouldn't mind calling it a classic worth playing today. Recommended.




Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 6/10)

Two-word parser but indicates if verbs and nouns are known. Had only a single "guess-the-verb" situation.

Cruelty (Rating: Tough)

I only saw one situation where the game could become unwinnable, and the player would realize this, a little later.

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)

Only one puzzle required a strange solution.

Overall (Rating: 8/10)

A good classic still worth playing.