Sega Master System

Review by Keith Erickson



Graphics: 4

Sound: 4

Gameplay: 3

Overall: 4

In the late 80's, no extra-terrestrial puppet was more popular than Alf. This wisecracking Melmacian had his own hit show, his own cartoon, and a myriad of licensed products. Thus it was only natural for there to be a video game starring the 'ol Alfer. And what better platform for Alf to appear on than the ill-fated Sega Master System...

The game starts up with a nice looking title screen, and while the accompanying tune is nice and upbeat, fans of the show may be disappointed that the familiar Alf theme song isn't playing instead.

When gameplay begins, we see Alf outside the Tanner home looking at his damaged spacecraft. Nearby is Alf's "space scooter", which appears to be out of gas. "No problem for the 'ol Alfer!", with you controlling him, Alf will be on Mars with his buddies Skip and Rhonda in no time!

First off, Alf picks up a few items from the kitchen; the family cat "Lucky" (no, he doesn't get to eat it) and a salami from the 'fridge (no, he doesn't get to eat that either), which according to Alf is "the perfect thing to take care of those nasty bats." So far, we haven't seen any bats, so we'll just have to take his word for it.

As Alf searches through the Tanner home and nearby town, he'll have to watch out for slow moving Alien Task Force agents, who must somehow be related to the Grim Reaper, for their touch is quite deadly. While in town, Alf can browse some shops that are full of useful items necessary to help him acquire fuel for his space scooter, but it seems the shopkeepers won't take foam as payment like they do on Melmac, our buddy Alf's gonna need some money!

The only place to go is into the Tanners basement, which for some reason contains a large cave. That salami you got from the fridge is put to use here to fend off bats as you make your way to a small shed containing a gold nugget. You'll quickly find that the bats will kill you off pretty easy. This is the result of one of the biggest flaws of the game: collision detection. This game is by no means a well programmed one, but if you have rapid fire, and stand still when the bats draw near, you can make it to the end of the cave.

I could continue on, and make this a walkthrough, but instead I'll fast-foreword to some highlights for Alf fans.
When you open up the closets in the house, you can set loose the deadly Melmacian blue-eyed cockroach (episode 24: la cucaracha), unfortunately it's just a simple matter of avoiding it. (Killing it with air freshener, like in the episode, could have been a neat gameplay idea, but alas, this game was never destined for greatness.)

In the Tanner's backyard is a lake that Alf has to dive into. One can only assume this is the lagoon Alf dug in the Gilligan's island episode run amok. Unfortunately for Alf, Mary Anne's no-where to be found, and instead, the lake is filled with killer scuba divers and cat-fish.

If you stand still for a while, Alf acts impatient, then knocks on the screen and says "Alf to human... Is anybody out there..." This is a nice touch that adds a lot of character to the game, but unfortunately, with all the Alien Task Force agents running around, Alf has little time to stand still, and thus most people will never actually see this. Had the game turned out more "Maniac Mansion" style, where one would likely ponder the solution to their predicament, this would have been quite clever.

Graphics: 4
Overall, the graphics in Alf are at best, fair. Take a look at the picture on the left.
This is how our good pal Gordon Schumway (AKA Alf) appears in the game. While it's a decent rendition of Alf, it could have been a lot better.

Now take a look at the picture on the right.
Using the available colors for Alf, and an extra unused color that just happens to be in the sprite palette, we can give Alf more facial detail, and even a shirt to add a little more personality. Now that's the "party alien" we all know and love! Unfortunately, the character animation in the game is pretty poor as well, and can be described as inadequate at best, with rarely more than 2 frames of animation per character.

Sound: 4
The music's not quite what one would expect for an Alf game, and is a bit harsh, but there are a few catchy tunes in the game, so it's not too terrible. Sound effects are nearly non-existent, but for some reason, they arenít really missed.

Gameplay: 3
The gameplay department's where Alf fails the most. The biggest problems here are the unresponsive control, and sloppy gameplay elements. While Alf's quest is nicely varied, the individual action segments are poorly done, and often too difficult (due to poor collision detection). It seems the programming department must have never programmed a game for this system before, because the enemies almost always travel in simple straight lines, and go at constant speeds. There's also the issue of the "sprite delay" which is obvious when Alf turns (he disappears for a few frames) and the slight hiccup in gameplay when one Alien Task Force agent goes off screen, and another one facing in the opposite direction appears.

I think that if given proper development schedules, and an extra megabit, we could have had a deeper game with more to do, possibly even with guest appearances by the Tanners and the Ochmoneks, and maybe even have some cat hunting and Bouillabaisseball. Unfortunately, what we got was a disappointing game that shares some eerie similarities to the Atari 2600's E.T. (think about it, an alien running around collecting items, avoiding government agents, and trying to get "home.") This game will surely fail to amuse all but the most die-hard Alf fanatics.

With a game this small in terms of levels and art assets, one must come to the conclusion that the development team of 2 producers, 2 programmers, 2 artists, and 1 musician must have been quite rushed to get this game on shelves for the holiday season. ...Either that, or they were quite incompetent. You be the judge.

*Bonus Tips*
1) If you get the cat, then go into town and sell it, the cat will be back in the kitchen when you return. You can grab and sell the cat as many times as you want until you use it in the basement.
2) If you grab the salami first, the cat second, then go into the children's bedroom, pause the game and press Up + Left + 1 + 2, you'll receive all the necessary items to finish the game.


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Last updated: Sunday, February 08, 2004 12:42 PM