Retro Monday: “Alien Carnage”

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Busy week and year…

This week has been one of the most busiest weeks I’ve had in a while. Before the week even began there was MCM London, 3 days of games, cosplayers, (and to a lesser extent) movies, TV and comics. I had one day to recover then I was off to a wedding. Not mine before you ask. But it involved an overnight trip up north. When I got back, it was time to record the Halloween videos and the various write ups that where due. And that’s while I got into the “Evolve” closed alpha weekend and added another write up to the pile. Only after all of this I realise that this weeks “Retro Monday” is my year anniversary of ’employment’ with the Torch. I wrote stuff before but I became ‘contractually obliged’ but the contract started on November 1st 2013. So thanks to the readers who stuck with and here’s to many future years.

Title: “Alien Carnage” (Formally “Halloween Harry”)

Developer: Interactive Binary Illusions/SubZero Software

Publisher: Apogee Software (AKA: 3D Realms)

Released: November 1994 (As “Halloween Harry” October 1993)

Halloween. A spooky holiday that isn’t a holiday because it’s not a day off. Then there’s the problem were it’s usually glazed over quickly because of Christmas, the holiday that is really a holiday because it’s a day off and because of the mountains of money that is spent. Or, as it was the case for me this year, it was glazed over because of mounds of work and a Guy Fawkes weekend that started on the 1st of November. Then there’s the fact we don’t really get trick or treaters round here any more. As of writing, I haven’t had any this year. More candy for me then.

This game has a rather long history. A simple history but a long one. The original version of the game was by John Passfield, one of the guys behind the Interactive Binary Illusions name. It was released on the Microbee computer in 1985, which was popular in his home country of Australia. The other half of Interactive Binary Illusions was Steve Stamatiadis. They were joined by SubZero Software and re-designed the game as a sudo-sequel/remake of the original, even though it had nothing to do with the original. The first release of the game was under the title “Halloween Harry”. But (apparently) Apogee didn’t like the name because they felt that it was too seasonal. Most likely because their model of sale was to release a shareware first chapter and have people pay to buy the other chapters. Couldn’t have the game be moved to the bottom of the pile because it would get called seasonal.

While it is easy to pin down the games credits and the Interactive Binary Illusions company, nailing down who was, or what was, SubZero Software is slightly more complicated. By that I mean I have found nothing about them. Literally nothing. The only thing I’ve really pinned down was that they were most likely based in Australia. By this point I’m ending up assuming that everyone on the credits that isn’t Passfield or Stamatiadis was SubZero Software. It would be nice if I could find out more because most of the information about the game’s development comes from Apogee, the games publisher, and they only reference SubZero.

The game sees you play as Halloween Harry during an alien invasion. The game starts off with a person in the shadows demanding that Earth be turned over to them or the invaders will turn all humans in to zombies. If you think that it sounds like something from Duke Nukem, then you’d be right. It not just in the Apogee/3D Realms connection. Apogee/3D Realms, who still gives out the game via their website, advertises it with the line;

If Duke Nukem has a twin separated at birth, it’s got to be Halloween Harry!

Although, as lines go it’s pretty accurate. It is quite like the original Nukem games. It’s a side-scroller with a muscle-bound protagonist who rescues damsels with guns. Before you start Ms. Sarkeesian, it was the 90’s. A product of its time. Look at the Schwarzenegger back catalogue. We all think it’s monumentality dickish now. At least the sane do. So… just me then.

The primary weapon is a flamethrower. It’s range it decent and it pretty visceral to use. You can get others like grenade launchers and pulse rifles by buying ammo for them but there really isn’t much need to get them. It can actually be hindrance if you do because your main way of getting around (apart from legs) is a jetpack and the fuel of the jetpack is also your ammo. Ammo for each gun is separate so if you buy new ammo for a new gun you have a little amount of ammo but also a little amount of jetpack fuel making moving about harder.

With your ammo and jetback fuelled by the same bar, you have to limit your flying and shooting or you will run out pretty quickly. Enemies are plentiful and you get coins to buy ammo/fuel by killing them so there is not much chance that you’ll run out. Although, near the end of levels it can get quite tense because the enemies always respawn but out get money the first time you kill them. Is not much of an issue but considering there is a fair amount of back and forth through paths to press switches meaning having through the same enemy, you get short of money. So as advice goes, I say spend sparingly and only use the flamethrower as ammo is cheep.

The game is actually very good. But I think it sits firmly in the shadow of is Dukem ‘twin’, but I don’t think it needs to be. Especially considering there was a sequel called “Zombie Wars” that didn’t involve Apogee at all. It was released by the Interactive Binary Illusions guys but with a few more people so they called themselves Gee-Whiz Entertainment in 1996. The game was much like the first but it had your information/tutorial NPC character from the first called Diana being upgraded to a playable character. They even added more characters as NPC’s. There was even a third game that never got released and planned animated cartoon based on the characters which was also not released.

If you want to try out “Alien Carnage”, you can get it free if you sign up at 3D

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