Happy Alien Day everyone! Yes, it’s that day of the year which coincidentally matches up with the name of the planet in Aliens (at least if you’re using the American method of date notation), LV-426. Any excuse to celebrate the Alien movies though, right?

It may surprise you to learn that the very first officially licensed game based on an Alien movie was released all the way back in 1982 on the Atari 2600. It is likely to surprise you even more that this game – based on a very tense haunted-house-in-space movie featuring a single, deadly antagonist – is actually a Pac-Man clone.

In keeping with the technology of the time, there wasn’t much opportunity for developers to make a scary game – nor one that’s particularly representative of the source material. Players take control of an anonymous starship crew member (are we on the Nostromo? Is it Ripley? Who knows!), who has to collect, presumably to destroy, Alien Eggs that look suspiciously like dots – while being pursued by three relentless Xenomorphs.

The player does have some options when it comes to defending themselves – a flamethrower, which temporarily stops the pesky aliens in their tracks – and ‘Pulsars’, which act like the power pills in, yes – you guessed it, Pac-Man.

Once a stage is cleared, there’s a Frogger-esque level in which players must make their way through a swarm of aliens…and then it’s back to the maze-based fun. Then rinse and repeat!

Bad points? Lack of adherence to the licence can be forgiven given the era – but there are a few flaws aside from that to point out. I’s a little odd that the aliens generally seem to walk backwards (perhaps not helped by the fact that the shapes made by their heads and tails kind of looks like a mouth, but Neubauer must have known what the Xenomorphs were supposed to look like, right?) and the incessant Pac-Man-esque sound effects can get pretty tiresome, pretty quickly.

However, designer Doug Neubauer did the best he could given the limitations of the hardware; though not faithful to the movie, it’s a playable and reasonably fun maze game. Dare I say that this is better than the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man itself? Yeah, it definitely is.

And there’s a box quote for the ages for you.

In any case, Happy Alien Day!

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