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Altered Space: A 3-D Alien Adventure (Game Boy) artwork

Altered Space: A 3-D Alien Adventure (Game Boy) review


"The game dumps you off in a small room, expecting you to travel through several rooms in many different possible paths until you find an elevator or teleporter that takes you to the next level. The game takes an isometric perspective, with developers Software Creations having also created the isometric Solstice for the NES. Problem: the NES was a console that sent visual and audio data to a TV screen, and had colour. The Game Boy had a pea-green screen that was only 2 inches across."



Altered Space: A 3D Alien Adventure does not start off very well: the game dumps you off in a small room, expecting you to travel through several rooms in many different possible paths until you find an elevator or teleporter that takes you to the next level. It is rather understandable that the developers expected a new player to read the manual, given the primitiveness of the Game Boy to provide in-game instructions on how to play, but even with a manual Altered Space would still have been very messy to play.

You see, the game takes an isometric perspective, one of few for the system, with developers Software Creations having also created the isometric Solstice for the NES. While that game may have been able to pull off the pseudo-3D view decently, Altered Space falls terribly short. The setting is that of an alien spaceship, with aliens having recently captured an astronaut, Humphrey. Humphrey desires to escape the spaceship, making his way through eight different levels. However, he also cannot breathe in the atmosphere of the ship, and so he must also collect air tanks to replenish his air, starting with 50, and replenishing his total air up to 99 every time he finds more oxygen.

Problem: the NES was a console that sent visual and audio data to a TV screen, and had colour. The Game Boy had a pea-green screen that was only 2 inches across. Although many games were able to make good use of the screen, Altered Space does not, as rooms are often large enough to make it difficult to observe everything onscreen. This does not bode well with the often complex nature of ways Humphrey can die - nearly every room in the game has a spike trap or a pit of some sort that kill instantly, with some rooms almost completely filled with a spike bed or a pitch abyss.

Often you will be asked to jump over a series of spikes onto small tiles of safe flooring with razor-thin margins for the jump: this gets to ridiculous extremes in some rooms, where you have to jump over several spikes, and missing even one forces you to restart the room (taking off 10 air every time you die), making this one of those type of games where you truly need to use an emulator with save states to defeat. In a couple of rooms, the developers even hid spikes behind a section of wall so the player cannot see it, and does not know there is something to jump over until he dies once.

Spikes and pits are not the only hazards, as you will also face off against several hordes of robots, moving spike traps, and the occasional alien. The robots move at a fairly fast speed, and if they do not kill Humphrey instantly, they will 'bounce' off of him and turn around. These latter ones are actually more terrible - whereas if Humphrey just dies, he loses 10 Air, the robots that 'bounce' and turn around will quickly reverse in the direction they were originally going, hitting Humphrey again, and taking off about 6-7 Air at a time, making it possible for Humphrey to die before he even has the chance to get out of the way. Spike traps move back and forth ala The Legend of Zelda, killing Humphrey instantly, with some moving above the ground, meaning Humphrey cannot jump over certain spike traps either. Meanwhile, the aliens, who often come in two and sometimes ambush Humphrey as soon as he enters a room by coming in from either side of the entry door, move at a very quick pace, and can jump and hit Humphrey in mid-air.

There are only a few items in the game, which Humphrey can pick-up and use one-time to either stun the aliens or the robots. The design is so poor that Humphrey quite literally must jump on top of the item and press A to pick it up, instead of simply touching the item, or pressing up against the item and pressing A. These items pop up rather rarely, and only barely help thanks to the sheer number of foes Humphrey will encounter in the alien spaceship.

As mentioned before, Altered Space: A 3D Alien Adventure is simply unplayable because of the isometric perspective, and the level design that makes it basically impossible to play without the prolific usage of save states. On one screen, for example, Humphrey must travel across the room by jumping onto three different platforms that go up and down or across the room. Thanks to the isometric perspective, it is nearly impossible to tell just how high or low the platforms going up and down are, leading to several possible deaths before successfully making it. It is because of moments like these, duplicated across nearly every room of every level, that I simply recommend not playing Altered Space. At all.

Rating: 2/10

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Community review by darkstarripclaw (July 08, 2013)

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