In space you are on the menu

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SO there you are, minding your own business, reading a copy of Intergalactic Playbeing, when a pod down in the cargo bay of your ship, the Mombassa Oak, breaks loose. Urk, wholesale damage. Total trashing of computer systems.

You managed to get the Oak to limp on to the mining colony, its original destination, and gratefully set down, expecting worried faces and a Sirius Slopshocker in the bar afterwards.

Hang on, though, it's strangely quiet. Where is everyone? What's all this slimey stuff? What are these cocoons? And why is there a small alien scuttling down the corridor towards me? Oh no, it can't be...

But it is. And if you were too frightened to sit through Alien(s) then you better steer well clear of Xenomorph 'cos there's gonna be loads of little scuttly things and big chomping nasty beasties pouring down the corridors of the ship and the mining station, all heading for you.

Yes, that's where the staff of the mining station on Atargis have gone - into the stomachs of the aliens, and so will you if you don't find the necessary equipment to repair the ship and take off again.

Before you do that, you better figure out whether you're going to be Sigourney Weaver or Michael Biehn by generating your vital statistics. Sex, hair, or lack of it, and even eye colour can be defined.

Having decided who you are, whether you like boys or girls or aliens, you make straight for the weapons shop to tool up for the shout out at the Mombassa Corral.

Stun guns and lasers, rifles and rocket launchers, grenades and mines, machine guns and even particle accelerators can be wielded wildly or stored in a 3D back pack, which is the strangest way to represent something so humble as a back pack.

Some weapons need power blocks, so make sure you store some of those as well, otherwise you'll end up using that particle accelerator as a club.

Possibly the most exciting weapon is the robo-mine, which lives to destroy. As soon as you set it off it chases after the nearest victim. Unfortunately this could be you if you don't get out the way very quickly.

It's best used when there's a troop of Xenomorphs chasing you down a corridor and you're low on battery power. Quickly set it off, and run like hell as the sound of disintegrating aliens makes your kind of music.

While examining the contents of your goody bag, a smaller version of the main screen, which you have now obscured of course, pops up on the left side of the screen so that you can still have one eye on what's happening around you. Vigilance is everything in this game.

Once tooled up, off you set around the five level ship and the 20 level mining base. The viewpoint is 3D, but it doesn't scroll towards you, it is redrawn. It scrolls when you swivel around to look sideways though, which makes life a damn sight easier.

The ship is all hues of metallic grey, but there are these access tunnels lined with pipes running through everything, and it's down these that the sense of fear is amplified.

Just what is awaiting around the bend in the tunnel? It's a pity this isn't a two-player game, then you could get a "friend" to go first.

Because of this threat it is essential to find the motion detector as soon as possible otherwise you never know what you'll meet in the dark.

The aliens mutate, of course. Remember the pods from Alien? Remember John Hurt leaning over one as it opened? Urk! Those pods are here and you can see them split open to disgorge small larvae, or proto-morphs. These don't hand around waiting for you to fry them - them scuttle off at a great rate of knots, looking for somewhere nice and warm to form cocoons.

Out of these the fully grown aliens slobber. Then they come looking for you.

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PANDORA £24.99 * Mouse

Wasn't the film Aliens good? A lot of people in the software industry seem to think so, as more than a few games have been released based around James Cameron's classic.

The latest to appear is Xenomorph, which puts the player in the boots of the Captain of supply cruiser The Mombassa Oak on a trip to Atargatis in the Sirius system. Tales have been told of ships that have set out for Atargatis never to return, which does not bode well for your trip!

The run starts off easily enough with all systems running properly, but the Crossover Drive malfunctions while travelling into Hyperspace (or Big Empty as the Trader-runners call it). The computer system and drives have been badly damaged, so you must search the base on Atargatis for supplies and equipment to make good your escape. On reaching the base, you soon discover the reason for the lost missions. The whole place is overrun with alien creatures - deadly enemies that kill anything not of their own kind.

The game starts with you in the cockpit of the Mombassa Oak, dressed in just your spotty underwear and armed only with a creditcard. The surroundings are viewed via a 3D window which at the press of a button switches to show your inventory screen.

Suits and weapons can be found in the remaining cargo section of your ship ready for you to take on the marauding aliens, but extra gear that may be handy such as radiation suits, rifles and mines must be found to get to the deeper sections, where the necessary equipment for your ship lies.

Some sections of the base have become dangerous, so there is a danger of becoming contaminated with radiation poisoning if you do not take the greatest of care. For this reason, medical supplies are essential to the well-being of would-be escapees.

Do you think you can overcome these amazing odds? Well, get your kit on and get out to your spaceship, then!


Instead of the usual filled 3D effect, Xenomorph uses a 'flickscreen' 3D system of bitmapped images to simulate movement through rooms and tunnels. Occasionally this gets confusing, but overall the effect is well implemented and convincing. The most impressive use of graphics comes in the form of the equipment. There is a myriad of weapons and technological systems for the player to pick up and use, each fitting into the game well. Unfortunately, the sound is of a somewhat lower standard. Only a few actions have corresponding spot effects such as inserting a card in a slot, firing a weapon or opening a door. If more use had been made of the sound then the game would have been a lot more atmospheric, but as it stands it does not have much of the 'outer-space' feel of games like Infestation.


There is no doubting the fact that Xenomorph is big. Use of a map is essential if you are going to get anywhere at all, as it is easy to either get lost in the tunnels or to completely miss a vital location if you are not paying close attention. Once you are familiar with the layout of the base, however, it will still take a while before proper use of the weapons has been worked out - ammo is short and there are a lot of nasty creatures - so you will be playing for a few weeks at the very least.


Alien-infested complexes seem to be all the rage at the moment, so it is nice to see a game that manages to create an inspired and involving environment to challenge the player. Considering the competition that Xenomorph is up against, the game stands up rather well. The feel is much more 'tech'-based than something like Infestation, using a whole host of computer equipment to complete the mission. Unfortunately, the weak sound loses to the atmospheric edge created by Psygnosis' adventure, bu - this gripe aside - Xenomorph is not half bad!

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Weltraum-Adventures sind gefragter denn je: "Star Wars" und "Raumschiff Enterprise" waren seinerzeit die Pioniere auf dem Weg zu entfernten Galaxien, Pandoras neuestes Game beschert uns jetzt eine gefährliche Rettungsaktion im All.

Die bunte Box mit einem Alien, das aussieht wie eine besonders widerliche Insektenlarve, läßt schon einiges erwarten. Auch die Screenshots auf der Rückseite sind recht vielversprechend, und die Hintergrundgeschichte verheißt Abenteuer über Abenteuer.

Zwar ist alles in Englisch, aber wer als Raumpilot anheuern will, muß einfach die wichtigsten Fremdsprachen beherrschen. Das Manual für das "Mombassa Oak"-Raumschiff ist über achtzig Seiten stark - genügend Lektüre also für den Abend vor dem Abflug nach Sirius B, wo die neue Mine mit allerlei Gebrauchsgütern versorgt werden muß.

So durchforstet man das Logbuch (nix Besonderes los gewesen) und macht sich mit seinem Frachter vertraut. Für den zweijährigen Flug steht ein angenehmes Tiefkühlbett zur Verfügung, doch kaum hat man sich dort ein wenig flachgelegt, reißt einen der Bordcomputer unsanft aus den Träumen: ALARM! Mit defektem Schiff und letzter Kraft wird eine nahegelegene Minenstation angesteuert, die unheimlich und verlassen wirkt. Und schon kann das Abenteuer seinen Lauf nehmen...

Screenaufbau und Steuerung von Xenomorph erinnern unweigerlich an das legendäre "Dungeon Master": Ein großes Fenster für den Sichtbereich, links daneben ein kleineres mit der Spielfigur und ihren wichtigsten Vitalwerten in Balkenform. Darunter sind die Bewegungspfeile und "deine" Hände, beziehungsweise das, was du darin hältst.

Alles ist mausgesteuert, die Bewegung kann aber auch mit den Cursor-Tasten erfolgen, was hier durchaus seine Vorteile hat. Mit der rechten Maustaste wirft man einen Blick in seinen "Rucksack", darin ist auch das Save- und Load-Icon zu finde (pro formatierter Diskette ist nur ein Speicherstand möglich). Der Sichtbereich wird im "Rucksackbetrieb" auf das kleine Fenster verlegt, dabei sind immer noch Aktionen durch Anklicken mit der linken Maustaste möglich (wirklich gut durchdacht!).

Die teilweise animierten Grafiken sind ansprechend gemacht, wengleich sie stellenweise etwas grob wirken. Mit dem Sound ist es nicht ganz so weit her: Der Digi-Titelsong läßt ja noch die Lauscher aufstellen, danach gibt's nur noch gelegentlich ein paar (realistische) Effekte zu hören. Na ja, ein Raumschiff ist nun mal keine Disco...

Kommen wir zum gravierendsten Schwachpunkt von Xenomorph: Kaum sciebt man eine der beiden Disketten ins Laufwerk, muß man auch schon um die Gesundheit seiner "Freundin" fürchten! Der aberwitzige Kopierscutz läßt das Powerlämpchen aufleuchten wie einen Weihnachtsbaum, auch der Lautsprecher bekommt dabei sein Fett ab.

Die absolute Unverschämtheit ist allerdings die Diskettenwechsel--Orgie, die Pandora dem Käufer aufbürdet (hat deutlich auf die Handhabungsnote gedrückt!).

Bei jeder Treppe, die man betritt, beginnt das traurige Spiel vo neuem! Sieht man einmal von derlei Schludereien ab, kann Xenomorph durchaus gefallen: Um die Aufgabe zu lösen, bedarf es kartographischer Kenntnisse, Geduld und einer gehörigen Portion Logik. Schließlich muß das Raumschiff wieder zusammengeflickt und der Bordcomputer erneut auf Vordermann gebracht werden. Und dann fehlen ja noch die 200 Minenarbeiter - wo sind die Jungs nur abgeblieben? Genug Beschäftigung für die nächsten Äonen... (wh)

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Dungeon Master in space. That, in a nutshell, is what Xenomorph has attempted to be. It's al there, strolling round, picking up bits and pieces, putting them all together, and beating the living daylights out of anything that happens to stray too near to you. There's loony robots, giant spiders and strange lifeforms that hatch from rooms full of eggs. Has the designer of Xenomorph seen Aliens, we wonder? Sean Kelly straps on his exo-skeleton and prepares to shout 'Leave her alone you...' (Snip. Ed.)

You know how it is. You've been stuck on your space ship, the Mombassa Oak, for flippin' ages. You've travelled hundreds of billions of light years across tons of galaxies to reach your destination, the mining colony Atargis. Then, just as you're about to make your rendezvous, the ship's computer goes barmy. Still, you plod on regardless and single-handedly land the ship at the mining colony.

No mean feat, so you climb out expecting a hero's welcome, and what happens? Diddly squat. Nothing. All the miners are dead. Flippin' typical or what? But what happened to them? Who's killed them? Who cares?

All you want to do is repair your ship and head back into space again as fast as possible. In order to do this, you must cannibalise the mining colony computers to replace the broken components on the ship. This would be straightforward in real life, but as we're talking about a computer game, there are loads of hazards standing between you and yur ultimate aim - including horrible aliens and defence 'droids.

The mining colony is spread over fifteen floors and each of them is absolutely massive. In addition to the size of the planet, there are also tons of puzzles and tasks that need to be accomplished before you get anywhere near leaving the planet. There are computers to be mended and utilised, passes to be found, armaments to be mastered, and bodies to be robbed. No doubt about it, Xenomorph is an absolutely huge game. But as we all know - size isn't everything...

Amiga reviewSean: Xenomorph is one of those games which, whilst first appearing fairly unattractive, grows on you over a few hours of play. (Rather like one of the aliens in the game, but more of that later). The first thing that anyone buying this game should do is buy a Eurosize 10 Grap Paper Pad, because every time I tried to play without mapping, I got lost within five minutes and literally went round in circles.

As you begin, you're dressed in just a rather fetching pair of boxer shorts. Fortunately a rummage in the ol' backpack will reveal a boiler suit, some boots and a rather fetching helmet, as well as stacks of other goodies. A quick skeggy of the manual reveals that the bits found include a motion detector, laser guns, machine guns and a hairdryer. At least that's what it looks like, anyway.

Get it all sorted out and in some sort of order so that it's easily accessible and carry a gun at all times. Otherwise the first baddie you meet will kill you while you're rummaging around in your handbag trying to find a gun that works.

The strongest features of Xenomorph is its variety. Each of the levels has its own style and design of graphics and this enhances the atmosphere no end. It all moves incredible fast - clicking to go one square in any direction will get you there before you can blink. The screen scrolls as you turn, rather than just flipping to another view, which makes for a smoother program.

There's also a tremendous range of aliens and robots to encounter. Each of them has different attributes - all are well animated and have been designed with loads of imagination - from the stomach-turning popping aliens of a certain movie to huge spiders and giant 'droids. Most of them go through various stages of growth and development, so even within one particular 'type' of alien there are even more forms and strengths.

The sound is fairly minimal - it's mostly sampled grunts and gunshot sounds, with the odd spot effect thrown in for good measure. Then again, sound isn't really that important in a game of this breadth and scope and anyone who buys it probably won't be looking for stunning sound effects anyway. What they will want is tons to do and loads of problems to solve. They will find more than enough in Xenomorph, that's for sure. Most of the ship will initially be inaccessible, so you'll need to discover how to get into these areas. Keeping yourself fit is also going to be difficult and that's before you've even began on the main task of fixing up the ship's computer.

A little more interaction would have been welcome, to make a change from simply destroying every blighter that's stupid enough to step within range of your vast armoury. Even the ability to question the various computer terminals around the place would have added another, more sophisticated dimension to the game. Still, can't have everything.

As it stands, Xenomorph is still an epic game that'll have you playing for months. It's absolutely dripping with atmosphere and is exquisitely put together.
In addition, actually playing a sophisticated game like this that doesn't involve runes, staffs, wizards or daft spells is more than a welcome change. Stop

Xenomorph: Layout explanation
  1. A quarter size scale 'window' of what is happening around you as you fumble about in your handbag. It works, so if any meanies appear here, they can still be killed without leaving the cosy confines of the ol' Colibri.
  2. This is what you're carrying in your left hand. It is, in fact, a motion detector, which tells you if there is any movement in your vicinity - each square representing ten feet. You're the white dot and at the moment, all's quiet.
  3. Spin 90 degrees left.
  4. Move one square forward.
  5. Spin 90 degrees right.
  6. Move one square to the left.
  7. Move one square back.
  8. Move one sqaure to the right.
  9. This is what you're carrying in your right hand. In this case it's a 10mm assault rifle, all tooled up and ready to go. The red scale above the gun indicates how much ammo you have before you're left staring at a giant monster with a gun going 'click... click'.
  10. Your fashion belt, with holders for a gun and various other bits and pieces like hand-grenades, clips, etc.
  11. Your handbag. Ooooh, my!! It's a surprise you can find anything in that mess, daarling. Well, they do say 'the handbag is a reflection of the mind' (Are you alright? Ed)
  12. The state of your health. The red column is general health, blue is stamina, white is radiation absorbed, green is food level and yellow is your water level.
  13. You. Boy, are you Ug-Er-Lee.

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Pandora, Amiga £24.99

Supplies, supplies! That's where your vocation lies. Unfortunately, while you're carrying out a routine delivery to a mining installation on Sirius B disastrous events occur to make you wish you hadn't taken this particular job.

The main part of your ship judders out of Hyperspace on the approach to Sirius B but its detachable cargo pod decides not to follow. Luckily, your on-board CNS (Central Nervous System) remains calm and manages to thaw you out - cryogenics are used extensively in the year 2134 - and informs you of the situation before shutting itself down. After a couple of choruses of 'Freeze a jolly good fellow' you get down to flying half a ship to your destination. Three arduous days later you arrive at the Essen mining station on Sirius B. You should be relieved at having made it but the distant lack of life in the complex causes concern. You wonder what on Sirius B could have happened to the 200 workers stationed here.

However, as your main objective is to repair the ship and get back, you swallow your fear and start to explore the complex in the hope of finding the necessary resources (and preferably nothing else). You need fuel for your ship, electrical components for your knackered CNS, and sustenance for yourself... but will you survive long enough to find them?

A t'riffic title track full of sampled shouts an' shots over an oriental(ish) tune is guaranteed to make you stop and listen before inserting disk B to start play. When eventually you do, the screen changes from a very nice graphic of the mining complex to six (equally nice) display windows. These show your view of the surroundings (the packaging states it's 'Full first person perspective'... I wonder what 'Half first person' would look like), inventory, status, direction, options, special equipment and items currently carried in each hand.

Locations update jerkily, but effectively, as you move around with distant areas shown in varying depths of shadow which lighten as you approach - a very nice touch.

FX are good, especially the noise made by your magnum (when you find it), but doors, machinery and so on are equally enhanced by suitable sounds.

As you explore deeper into the complex you come across panels containing clothing, weapons, food, drugs - to combat radiation, hunger and headaches - or computer terminals. Other objects, such as data disks, are to be found in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies within the complex. Some of the items available to you are explained in the booklet accompanying the game while many others are left for you to discover their use.

As you search and destroy (yes, you do come across the odd alien who needs a good trashing) keep an eye on your status window: lack of food and drink logically affects your health and too large a dose of radiation has a negative effect on your chances of returning home. Drugs can help with health problems but you need to know codes to access suitable medication - administering any old narcotic into your blood stream could be fatal.

The essence of Xenomorph is mapping: if you don't like having to chart your surrounding you may not appreciate this game. But if you get a kick out of plotting, pop out and purchase Xenomorph and get down to some Sirius game playing!