Another one of those games with “Alien” at the start of the title. Yay. Let’s see… Alien Syndrome is the oldest of the bunch, being originally released in 1987 as an arcade game and ported to various platforms and eventually also to DOS. It was developed by Sega (we all know those, don’t we), and the best part of the game is probably its catchphrase: “lurking about are the hideous creatures from outer space”.
The game itself is a simple top-down shooter. Superficially it resembles Alien Breed a lot, but the gameplay is totally different. Where Alien Breed was all about horror and tension and all sorts of creepiness, there’s only simple action here. Run around, shoot aliens, free your comrades, fight boss, repeat.
Weapons can be upgraded with weapon stations on the walls, but there doesn’t seem to be much difference. Lasers, energy balls, flamethrower, it only looks different but plays essentially the same: fire at will, one hit destroys the enemy. Worse is that you often cannot see enemies approaching. The screen scrolls when you approach the edge, but there’s not enough room to see incoming aliens. Thus you often die because of aliens you didn’t see until it’s too late. And you can’t explore slower because levels have a time limit. A curse of the arcade origins, I guess…
It is rather hard to play this game on modern systems. DOSBox runs the game fine, but way too fast with default settings. With a timer of 250 seconds running down in 90 seconds, you know your task will be harder than needed. Slowing down DOSBox gives you more time but makes the game less responsive and even choppy when there are multiple enemies around. 1500 cycles seems to be around the sweet spot.
There is a two-player modus in the original arcade game, but I’m not sure this option is supported in the DOS version. Not that I’d want to try it, really. This game predates Alien Breed by about 5 years, which is an eon in terms of game development (2005 was the year of B&W2, Psychonauts, CoD2 and BF2) but when I look back now, I can only discourage you from playing this game. 3/10.