You promised your wife that you'd clear the Kessel Run in time to pick up her dry cleaning and be home for dinner. While your spaceship zips across the solar system, it happens: a lurch, a cough... and then silence. Looking at the fuel gauge, you realize that you really should have stopped for dark matter when you saw the sign 12 light-years ago. Your wife is going to be pissed.
As you walk down to the fuel reserves, you notice that things aren't quite right in this part of your ship: There are icky eggs everywhere, and these monstrous aliens are really intent on eating you. Before switching to the auxiliary tanks, you'd better clean up this mess. Maybe you shouldn't have picked up that hitchhiker from the Nostromo after all...
Gameplay: It could be the "wakka-wakka" sound the eggs make when you run over them, or the way the aliens turn blue and run away when you pick up a pulsar. It could be the Hyper Warp passages on either side of the screen, or the little bonus planets you can pick up if you're lucky. One way or another, this maze sure looks familiar.
As luck would have it, you can take the hundreds of quarters and thousands of hours you invested in your Pac-Man skills and apply them to Alien, with two small additions: You now have a flamethrower to blast the monsters out of your way, and Pac-Man's animated interludes have been replaced with a bonus game that's remarkably similar to Frogger.
Could be mistaken for: Pac-Man, if Atari's Pac-Man didn't suck out loud.
Kids today might not like it because: Unlike the Atari versions of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T., Alien doesn't try to recreate the plot of the movie.
Kids today might like it because: Unlike the Atari versions of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T., this is actually a fun game.
Enduring contribution to gaming history: When you sit down at your fancy Xbox, in your fancy castle on the Fancywine River in Fancyland, and you play Lord Of The Rings, have one of your servants give thanks to 20th Century Fox and Alien for inspiring a generation of programmers to create games based on movies, Fancypants.
Wil Wheaton keeps a blog at wilwheaton.net. He always makes it home in time for dinner.
Images courtesy of Killer List Of Video Games (klov.com) and The International Arcade Museum.