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OC HIGH: Student News and Views : Video Game Review : Alien 3; For Super NES from Acclaim; $59.95


Years later, I still remember my icy shudder the first time I saw Alien, that terrifying film starring Sigourney Weaver and a monstrous creature with slavering jaws that bled acid and used its human victims as hosts for its unborn young.

Well, after several less-than-stirring attempts, someone finally has made an almost-as-scary video game, and it is a five-star winner.

Alien 3 is one of those games that comes along once in a great while and simply stands far above the crowd. If you enjoy action and adventure, if you like to solve puzzles, if you like to kill murderous creatures from another world, Alien 3 is for you.

The game follows the third movie in the series. Our heroine, Ripley, has already had two previous run-ins with the toothy fiends and is heading back to Earth after the second when her ship crashes on Fiorina 3, a prison planet in deep space.

Ripley is the only survivor. Human survivor, that is. Seems she brought with her a hitchhiker--an alien.

Your task is to wipe out the latest infestation and destroy the queen egg-laying monster before a rescue ship arrives and carries the spoor of these horrific beasts to other worlds.

As the game opens, Ripley is faced with a computer terminal. The terminal will give you a series of assignments, from repairing electrical connections to freeing prisoners to wiping out the pods from which the early stage of the creatures emerge. It also will show you blueprints of the prison compound so you can map your strategy in advance.

You must wade through several stages, each with its own missions.

You can deal with the missions in each stage in any order you like, or you can simply explore, killing aliens at will.

The first scene puts you in a series of ducts, packed with aliens and some power-ups. Weapons include a machine gun, a flamethrower and a grenade launcher. There are doors you can pass through, taking you to different parts of the compound and giving you different challenges.

What makes the game so great? Let's count the ways.

First, it has excellent graphics, detailed and precise. The backgrounds really capture the essence of the movie; most are dark and brooding, with danger lurking around every corner. Compare the flamethrower's blast to the game of the same name for Genesis. The Genesis version isn't even close. Check out the rain in the outdoor section.

Second, control and movement are almost perfect. Ripley reacts instantly to commands with a fluid motion that makes her seem almost real; she can run, jump, crouch and even swing hand over hand from conveniently placed hand holds. The adult aliens move just as they do in the movie, seeming almost to float as they bound toward you to attack.

Third, music and sound effects are great. Ripley has several sounds, most uttered when she's working hard. The aliens grunt and hiss, and even scream when they are blasted. Eerie music heightens the sinister feeling, as do the cries for help from prisoners you are trying to free.

Drawbacks? Very few.

There are no continues. Even though there are plenty of power-ups to boost your power meter, once it runs down to zero, you are dead and it's time to start over. It's sometimes hard to follow the blueprints.

Otherwise, Alien 3 approaches video game nirvana--as long as you can stay alive to play it.

Otherwise, as the whiny voice of Hudson, one of the doomed Marines, puts it: "Game over, man!"

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