Tagged: video games

The most ridiculous light gun I own: The Silent Scope Light Rifle.

It’s been a rough month for me, folks. Admittedly the drive to write wasn’t quite there for most of the month until fairly recently, and I do have some actual posts prepared to be published in October.

But for now, I’m gonna write a fairly short post. This is about something I found unexpectedly at a Goodwill. A rare relic of a bygone era. Probably one of the goofiest video game controllers I own. In a sense, this is part “here’s something interesting I own,” part “I Bought Stuff!”

I know light guns aren’t supposed to resemble real firearms anymore, but this looks so goofy.

No, this isn’t a super soaker or Nerf gun, though I can’t blame you for thinking that. This is the Silent Scope Light Rifle, a light gun made for the original Xbox. I bought this for $7, and in hindsight it probably was one of the more impulse purchases I made that I have a small bit of regret. I’ll explain why in a bit.

I won’t go into a long history about the genre as there’s much better places for such things, but here goes. Light gun games were all the rage during the 8 and 16-bit eras. Duck Hunt, Wild Gunman, Lethal Enforcers, those American Laser Games that practically show up on every system like Doom or Resident Evil 4 does these days… They were fairly popular.

Then, oddly, it slowed down. At least, on home consoles. They still got light gun games, but at a much reduced rate. Some cases like Area 51 on the PlayStation didn’t even support a light gun, opting for PS Mouse support instead, which completely ruins the fun.

It was still thriving in arcades thanks to Time Crisis and later stuff by Raw Thrills like the infamous Target: Terror. But short of Namco bringing out the GunCon 2 for a Time Crisis II port and support for games like Capcom’s Resident Evil: Dead Aim, it was practically a ghost town for light gun games during the PS2/Xbox era. Until the Wii briefly brought the genre back into the spotlight for a brief moment.

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Alpha Prime: Plunging back to the world of eurojank.

As I’ve been writing about random games for years at this point, I’ve started to look back at the various cheapo bargain bin games I’ve written about. Most of them were made here in the United States and published by ValuSoft, the most infamous of bargain bin game publishers. Other times I’ve written about stuff a little lesser known, like City Interactive’s Enemy Front. But sometimes, despite owning many different bargain bin games over the years, there’s a few that made me wonder “Why the hell did I buy this?” Alpha Prime fits that bill perfectly.

A shame I have no idea who Ondrej Neff is. They should’ve done what they did with Metro 2033 and make a novelization of the game that’s somewhat difficult to read in English.

I honestly can’t remember why I bought Alpha Prime. Maybe it was $1 in a Steam sale. Maybe I saw someone show me a dumb video about it, and it looked so bad I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Regardless, I had the game in my backlog, and I felt like I needed something drastically different from BioShock 2, which I had just finished and written about recently.

Alpha Prime is made by Black Element, a development studio based in the Czech Republic. They were part of a collective called the Independent Developers Association (IDEA), founded by Bohemia Interactive. Suddenly it makes sense why the makers of ARMA and DayZ published this mid-2000s budget FPS. At least, according to the Steam store page.

Since I have a penchant for rough, janky games made in Europe, I decided to give this a try just out of morbid curiosity. Let’s just say the experience was rather… unpolished.

It looks like Arnold isn’t even interested in Livia’s advances. Wonder if that’s a side effect of the Hubbardium.

The plot goes like this: Arnold Weiss (or Arnie as some call him) is a former soldier who was stationed at Alpha Prime, an asteroid full of Hubbardium, a fictitious space rock that is said to give people special powers. After being egged on at a bar by an old fling named Livia, he goes back to Alpha Prime to help his buddy Warren, and stop his group from mining more Hubbardium. But then disaster strikes.

Those are words that *can* be used to make a sentence, but I can’t make heads or tails of it.

At least, I think that’s how the story goes. Naturally, since this was made by Czech people, English is not their first language. There is lots of stilted, awkward dialogue in this game, combined with a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes that made it very hard to comprehend the game’s story, and I ended up ignoring it after a while.

Leaning? shooting behind cover? Yeah, this is definitely a 2000s era FPS.

Alpha Prime is a by-the-numbers FPS. Shoot dudes, try not to get shot too much, that sort of thing. The weapons are standard FPS fare for the time: pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, grenades, the works. There’s some interesting ideas, like the assault rifle being a mini gatling gun, but it acts no different than your standard FPS assault rifle.

These uses of the ReCon could’ve been useful, but most of the time it’s used to look into cameras, which isn’t really as useful.

The game does throw a couple interesting ideas, however. At one point you acquire a ReCon, a device that lets you hack into cameras and activate platforms and traps. It’s kinda neat in spots, but in most cases seeing into the next area won’t help you that much unless there’s a trap inside to make combat easier.

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Ghosts I-IV for Quake: A different kind of soundtrack.

If there’s one thing I need to improve on in my life, it’s to write something in the moment. I’ve bought plenty of games, played a bevy of mods, grabbed other assorted things for potential blog fodder…

Then I do nothing with it. This has happened more often than not, but only because I get the problem of being an ideas person and rarely act upon them. I’ve been slowly improving on this front, at least more than I was years ago.

Which brings me to this post about a game mod. I played this on a whim back in 2018, and thought it was pretty neat. While I’m currently wrapped in a few other things right now, I thought I’d write something quick for this month.

A few years back, I wrote an article praising the wonders of Red Book CD audio. CD audio tracks that would play in certain games, from PC classics like Half-Life, to even Sega CD games like Sonic CD. Unfortunately, modern technology is not too kind to the concept, as it often struggles to work properly on modern devices. In some cases, digital re-releases of games like Starsiege: Tribes didn’t even come with the CD music, removing part of the ambience.

There have been solutions thanks to source ports and game updates. For instance, playing Half-Life on Steam has all its music files as MP3s, so if the game (or a related mod) calls for that CD track, it’ll play it without needing the CD.

Looks just as good as it did in ’96.

Which brings me to a classic in Red Book audio: Quake. One of the earliest PC games to use it, popping in the CD would fill your ears with weird ambient music by Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. Modern source ports such as Quakespasm actually support playable CD tracks in MP3/OGG formats, which means one can rip the soundtrack from their copy of Quake – or just find it on the internet, I doubt id and Zenimax care these days – and play it easily, proper looping and all.

There’s a handful of Quake map packs that come with custom soundtracks tailor-made for the level pack, such as Travail. Others outright replace the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack with different ambient tracks, like EpiQuake or Quake Epsilon. But what if I told you someone replaced Nine Inch Nails music with Nine Inch Nails music?

Ha! Now I won’t be burned by hot slag. Take that!
(Oh wait, now I can’t get out…)

“Ghosts I-IV for Quake” is an interesting mod. Replacing the original 1996 soundtrack with the entirety of Ghosts I-IV, an album by Nine Inch Nails with nothing but ambient instrumentals seems like a good fit. In a sense, Ghosts I-IV is a spiritual successor to the original Quake soundtrack, even if there’s little similarities in style.

The album itself is interesting: Frustrated by their record label, Trent Reznor severs their contract with Interscope Records and decides to go independent – for a while anyway – and released this under a Creative Commons license. This license is how the mod exists without lawyers getting involved, as it’s a free mod for a commercial video game.

Shooting switches the power of magic pellets!

There is one other feature of this mod: There’s no monsters or weapons. Now there’s mostly empty levels with switches, lifts and other assorted things, but nothing to shoot. With god mode turned on. In a sense, this changes the perspective of the game entirely. No longer a straight explosive romp, it’s strictly an exploration-based affair.

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Concentration: A casual adaption of a game show.

Sometimes when you’re like me, sifting through thrift stores and finding unusual stuff, you sometimes find things you remember hearing existed, but didn’t know if it was real.

I’ve written about game show games in the past, from portables to knockoffs. I try my best to keep up with the current game show-related merchandise, and that includes games. Yet, this was one I wasn’t expecting to find.

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Welcome to the Concentration Hellzone, human.

Concentration: The Classic Game of Mix and Match, based off Concentration, a show you might’ve heard of if you’re as old as I am, or know a lot about game shows like I do. Developed by casual game developers Freeze Tag and published by Mumbojumbo, this came out around 2007 for PCs, and is something I honestly forgot existed until I picked this up and talked about it on a recent post.

For those who never saw the game show, I’ll give a brief explanation since there are better places that explain the show in more detail: Concentration was a game show that aired on television throughout the 1950s all the way until the early ‘90s. It first aired on NBC from 1958 until 1973, being a daytime staple for the network. After being canceled, the show was revived two times: Once as a syndicated show from 1973-1978, and once more back on NBC from 1987-1991; this time under the name Classic Concentration and famously hosted by Alex Trebek. Classic’s last new episodes aired in 1991, but it aired in reruns until 1993.

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A sample board, from the later 1970s revival.

A combination of the board game Memory with rebus puzzles, players tried to find matches to earn prizes and eventually win them by solving the mystery rebus puzzle beneath. There were changes and rule adjustments throughout the 35 years the show was on the air, but that’s the general gist of the game.

So why I am surprised this exists? Well, Concentration is slowly becoming one of those shows forgotten by the general populace. The last time it aired anywhere in the US was in 1993, when NBC reran Classic Concentration.

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From Classic Concentration, a player found a red TAKE! and a Wild Card, giving them an opportunity to steal an opponent’s prize.

Unlike other classic game shows, it never reran on USA Network’s game show block, or even on Game Show Network. This is because NBC bought the rights to Concentration back in 1958 from Barry-Enright Productions, a TV company who was a part of the big quiz show scandals at the time. Even though the later revivals were produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman’s production company – producers of Match Game, Family Feud, and The Price Is Right – the show was still owned by NBC. Presumably NBC was asking too much for rerun rights, hence why the only places you can watch Concentration is YouTube videos of old VHS recordings.

(Update 9/30/2018: It seems pigs are flying and the impossible is now possible, as Buzzr, FremantleMedia’s game show channel, is now airing Classic Concentration on their network daily. For historical purposes, I’ve kept the out-of-date information so people are aware of what once was.)

Through various acquisitions and mergers over the past sixty years, Concentration is now pretty much under the arm of NBCUniversal. Make note of this, as it will come up later.

Now that I’ve given the refresher course about the show, let’s talk about this game, shall we?

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It certainly looks pretty… simple. The logo looks better than other ones I’ve seen for this game, though…

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Operation Body Count: A little-known FPS reborn.

In the many years I’ve been writing about games, I try my best to broaden my horizons and check out stuff that’s not as well known, or written about. In some cases I just end up writing about obscure first-person shooters from the ‘90s most people don’t know about. Such as Operation: Body Count.

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For those unaware, Operation: Body Count was a first-person shooter released in 1994 by Capstone Software. In it, you play as a nameless commando who has to stop the evil Victor Baloch and rescue world leaders. It had a fair share of interesting features like AI buddies you could control to help you complete floors, semi destructible environments, a map of the area to avoid getting lost, and a semi-realistic environment in the days when things looked pretty abstract.

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I knew I had to get my hands dirty, but I didn’t think they literally meant it…

The game gives a really bad first impression where Our Hero has to fight the dreaded sewer rats under Baloch’s brainwashing for the first several levels. It also doesn’t help the game looks like… well, this.

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This guy couldn’t stop walking into me until I backed up so we could even hit each other. Quality product, right here.

It looks like a bad Wolfenstein 3D clone, doesn’t it? Well, it uses id’s Wolfenstein 3D engine as a base, which looked pretty cool in 1992-93. Many games ended up using the engine for their games, including Apogee’s Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold and Rise of the Triad.

But then Doom happened. Basically any FPS that still had the 90 degree maze-like look of Wolfenstein looked extremely dated, especially by 1994 standards. Even Capstone’s other big FPS of the time, Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, didn’t fare so well either for the same reasons as Operation: Body Count. I wouldn’t be surprised if many FPS developers were swearing their heads off when the shareware episode of Doom hit in 1993, with its open areas, tall floors, and level geometry that went beyond 90 degrees.

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Ah, what could’ve been…

Despite the game’s relative obscurity, a Doom modder by the name of Impie decided to take the fairly maligned DOS game and give it a Doom-style makeover. The result is nothing but amazing. Also called Operation: Body Count, the game is similar to the 1994 Capstone original, but with significant changes that make the gameplay more fun and exciting.

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I bought stuff!: Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2017 Edition.

Hey, y’all. I’m really sorry about the dearth of updates as of late. For the past few months, I’ve been down in the doldrums. No drive to write, to make videos, to stream. Sometimes, something comes around that seems pretty neat and I’ll write about it. I haven’t missed a single month in the blog’s 5+ year history, and I’m not breaking the chain any time soon, so I felt it was time to write again.

Having a yearly tradition on this site helps a lot too.

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The Portland Retro Gaming Expo happened last weekend (the 20th to the 22nd), and it’s always a hoot to go. The cool deals, the amazing art, walking around the show floor and accidentally bumping into people like MetalJesusRocks and Bob Mackey of Retronauts among other notable people in the gaming internetosphere, the works.

Of course, as you can tell by the subject, I bought a few things.

Admittedly, at this stage in my collection career, I’ve slowed down in my collecting quest considerably. Most of the iconic games or systems that I’d want are just way out of my price range, especially for someone with fairly low income like myself. Though, seeing someone sell stuff like a JVC X’eye – a Genesis/Sega CD hybrid – or even visual novels entirely in Japanese is at least worth a look even if I can’t pony up the cash to own them.
However, I did walk away with a few things of interest, at least to me. Let’s go!


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$2 – Soldier of Fortune: Gold Edition (PS2)

Soldier of Fortune is one of those underrated gems. While on the surface it’s a boilerplate action game with a clunky inventory system, the appeal was cranking the violence factor to 11 and making it so you could literally blow limbs off with a shotgun. This was literally the game’s appeal, as the first level gives you the shotgun real early to show off this GHOUL technology, as Raven Software called it.

Sadly, it may never get a re-release because Activision doesn’t care about older franchises, plus the costs of relicensing the Soldier of Fortune name from the magazine of the same name probably wouldn’t recuperate costs even with frequent GOG and Steam sales. A shame, really.

I own the original on PC – albeit it’s the later Platinum Edition release; and a Dreamcast release oddly published by Crave Entertainment. I didn’t know a PS2 version existed. Surprisingly, this was also not published by Activision, but rather published by a pre-Advent Rising Majesco.

They also touted four player split-screen multiplayer, as well as USB mouse and keyboard support, which puts it in the rare league of PS2 games that support mouse and keyboard for something besides text chat. Other games that use this include the ports of Half-Life and Unreal Tournament, and according to my friend weasel, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, oddly.

The low $2 price tag helped, too.

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$10 – Four PC games:

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
  • Wanted: Weapons of Fate
  • Turning Point: Fall of Liberty
  • Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku

I like collecting what I’ve called “junky” PC games. Ones of dubious quality, or ones that would fit right at home in the bargain bins of any place that sold computer games. At a booth that also had unplayable PC games like Auto Assault (I have a story about that one, ask me about it sometime), was some of this stuff I couldn’t resist picking up.

I think owning the PC GRAW and Wanted is a nice contrast: Both games were made by GRIN, and were during two important periods as a game developer: When they were nearly at the top with GRAW, and when Wanted was one third of the triple whammy that would later shutter the company – the other two games being Terminator: Salvation and the 2009 Bionic Commando reboot. While GRIN has since splintered off into several studios – most notably Overkill, makers of Payday; and Fatshark, makers of Warhammer: The End Times Vermintide – these games are a nice time capsule, as it were. Since these were made before PC games pretty much became “CDs with the Steam client installer and a code to redeem the game”, I get to relive the tail-end of the pre-Steam PC era. Complete with stuff like GRAW having 6 CDs instead of a single DVD. Ugh.

Turning Point is a “what if Germany won World War II” game by Spark Unlimited, the makers of such fine products like Legendary, Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z and Call of Duty: Finest Hour. Basically Wolfenstein: The New Order before TNO and with more suck.

Carol Vorderman’s Sudoku, on the other hand… Well, I might save that for a future blog post. For real. It’s interesting for a “bloody yank” like me, that’s all I’ll say about that.

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Super Jeopardy! for the NES: Just as fun as the real show!

Game show video games are still one of many genres I’m fascinated by. While Jackbox Games are still plugging away with twice-yearly Jackbox Party Packs, the competition has mostly dried up. Hell, we haven’t had a proper Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! game since the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. (No, those crappy freemium mobile apps don’t count.)

So I tend to go back to the glory days, when GameTek was still around making loads of these games as probably their #1 source of income. I already covered the Game Boy and Game Gear versions of Jeopardy! in the past, and thought, might as well come back to the well once again.

Surprisingly, for the NES, there were four versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the system. It honestly would’ve done fine with just two, but it must’ve been a huge cash cow for them to keep making. Either that or being given away as consolation prizes on the show gave them a good reason to do the equivalent of a “roster update” for those games.

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This time, I’m covering a fairly obscure one from the Jeopardy! collection: Super Jeopardy!. Released around 1991, this was based off of the fairly short-lived version that actually aired on primetime TV.

I’m going to assume my audience knows Jeopardy! the game show (here’s the Wikipedia page if you don’t), so I’ll talk about what Super Jeopardy! was.

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Super Jeopardy! was a 13-week special Tournament of Champions featuring the best players of the current version of the show at the time (plus one champion from the Art Fleming era because the first Tournament of Champions winner passed away) playing for a whopping $250,000. Instead of playing for cash, they were playing for points in the main games. Continue reading…

Mountain Dew Game Fuel: Stand by for Mangofall edition.

I’ve come back from the dead… and what timing, as it’s time again…

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Mountain Dew Game Fuel at this point is a standard flavor in the soda’s arsenal, alongside favorites like Code Red and Whiteout. What was once an exotic rarity that I had to hunt at stores left and right to try, is now fairly common. Despite that, I do actually anticipate these “special flavors” each year and see which big corporation threw enough of their weight (in dollars) around to get on the bottles this year.

It’s pretty much tradition on this site for me to cover these unique Game Fuel flavors. I first covered it when they did Halo 4 in 2012. I covered the special “purple drank” flavor to advertise the new Xbox One in 2013. I covered the “fizzy lemonade” special edition (which was my favorite) in 2014, and finally when they did back-to-back Call of Duty promotions with an unremarkable flavor last year.

So who’s on tap this year? Call of Duty for the third year in a row? Battlefield? An unexpected contender like Gears of War 4? Nope, It’s one I never thought I’d see.

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YO HE GOT THE MANGO SENTINEL

EA and Respawn’s Titanfall 2 is the candidate this year, and the special flavor is “a burst of Mango Heat.” Since Citrus Cherry is the de facto standard flavor that’s always available, I no longer need to cover it. But how about the special mango flavor? Does it hold up? Continue reading…

Sonic & Knuckles Collection: Back when Sega published PC games.

Back in the mid ’90s, when Sega slowly was losing its competitive edge against veteran Nintendo and newcomer Sony, they were also publishing a fair share of their games on Windows PCs. This isn’t as well known as their other stuff, considering most of them were ports of existing Genesis and Saturn games.

Most of their games was ports of stuff like Comix Zone and Tomcat Alley. But then a certain blue hedgehog burst onto the PC scene, and I don’t mean by strange fan games made in Klik’n’Play….

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Sonic & Knuckles Collection was released in 1997, and was the second Sonic game to reach PC, the first being two different ports of Sonic CD. It was smart for Sega to port The Best Sonic Game* to Windows machines, for people like me.

I was strictly a Nintendo kid pretty much until the late ’90s, when I got my first PC, and later getting a Dreamcast in 2000. Because of that, the Genesis is a system that I owned but didn’t really experience properly, thus I never got to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles until this PC release.

…Well, that and the water levels in Sonic 2 scared me so bad that when I got Sonic 3 and got to Hydrocity Zone, I got so scared that I asked to take the game back. Damn you Yukifumi Makino and your scary-as-fuck drowning music!

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Nooo don’t send me down there

I have not one, not two, but three copies of this game. The first one I got was part of a Jack in the Box promotion, which had a few other Sega PC games like Sonic 3D Blast and Ecco the Dolphin. The others were a complete-in-box copy and a CD jewel case copy that came in a Sonic three pack with Sonic CD and Sonic R. That’s probably more copies than I need of this game, but hey.

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Shadowgrounds: A fun little action game.

If you’re like me, you probably have a massive backlog. I can’t blame you, Steam sales are the bane of our existences. This means you’ll sometimes buy games and wonder why you got them, like Chrome. I almost wrote something about that but I couldn’t stomach it after two levels.

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This is just a small excerpt of some of the games I’ve bought on countless Steam sales and never played or finished.

So let’s see what else I got. Alan Wake is too well-known, writing something about the six Star Wars games I own would be a bit too popular, I don’t think there’s anyone interested in me talking about the Wallace & Gromit Telltale series…

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A-ha, here we go. A game from a Finnish developer who’d later be known for the fun Trine series of games: Shadowgrounds.

This game holds a bit of a memory because of how Steam was ten years ago. See, Steam was a different beast back then. There wasn’t much outside support outside of a few indie games, like the wonderful Darwinia and the one-note, forgettable Rag Doll Kung Fu. Frozenbyte’s Shadowgrounds was one of those early adopters of Valve’s content delivery service, though this was during that period where games like these were still sold in physical boxes in stores. Though it would likely be shoved into the bottom of a GameStop bargain bin these days before being thrown out.

(Story spoilers within! If you wish to play it yourself spoiler-free, it’s on Steam for the low price of $6.99, or $12.99 for this and its sequel Shadowgrounds: Survivor!)

Set on the moon Ganymede, you play as engineer William Tyler, who’s sent out on a mission to repair some generators with some colleagues. Until stuff goes wrong. Armed with only a pistol, you fight loads of aliens as you solve the mystery and see what happens. Along the way you meet allies, and try to make sense of this mess.

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This a top-down shooter. It reminds me of Valve’s Alien Swarm, though European readers may liken this more to Team17’s Alien Breed series of games. You have a crosshair that aims in the general direction of enemy targets, and it plays fairly straightforward: Shoot the aliens before they attack you and kill you.

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