As Cinemaware's homage to B-monster movies, It Came From the Desert may be the only game in which you can call in F-86 Sabre jet strikes on giant ants, then escape from a hospital and knife-fight with hoods at the drive-in theater. Players take the role of a scientist in dusty Lizard Breath, CA, a town populated by the likes of farmers, femme fatale waitresses, and scientists.
The game succeeds in re-creating the feel of old pulp, but its attention to detail also re-creates what feels like a real desert town, with old pump houses, gas stations, and stretches of road for late-night games of chicken. Like most Cinemaware products, it's a hybrid of genres, combining strategy, adventure, and arcade sequences.
Expectations have been running high at the prospect of Cinema-ware's third release of the year. The quality of their sports simulations and interactive movies has largely been responsible for taking gaming forward into a new era, and establishing a benchmark by which other software houses and the public test their releases.
At the heart of Cinemaware's success is their belief that gaming should encourage players to plunge themselves into complete roles with the mood augmented by impressive sound and graphics. It Came From The Desert continues this approach by taking 50's B movie science fiction and creating a complete melodrama in which the player is the main protagonist. It works instantly.
The plot of It Came From The Desert is a hybrid of 'It Came From Outer Space' and the bug movie 'Them.' After a meteorite crashes in nearby mountains, the small town of Lizard Breath. California, is disturbed by bizarre events, disappearances and the appearance of huge killer ants - pugonomyrex rugosus to you. You play Doctor Greg Bradley, a geologist who rapidly becomes involved in a battle, first to persuade the authorities that the creatures exist, and then to stop them before they overrun the town.
The game begins at your ranch house in the centre of town, with the visit of an old prospector, Geez, who drops some rock samples from the area where the meteorite fell. From this point on you're on your own, and you'll have to collect evidence of the insects, and formulate a plan of action by moving around the area, talking to the townspeople, looking for clues and most importantly, staying out of trouble. Confrontations with ants or the wrong kind of people can result in injury and lost time. Since you only have fifteen days before the ants strike, you need all the time you can get. Like any human though, you'll have to spend some of that time asleep.
You interact with the other characters and operate by selecting from a series of options which appear in boxes throughout the game. It's efficiently done, making the role playing/adventure side of the game painless and enjoyable. As usual Cinemaware have crammed every form of gaming in there. Strategy is ever present as you work your way through the game and battle the ants. Problem solving intermingles with elements from wargaming to adventuring.
Most importantly the arcade sections are there in force. They occur frequently and variously enough in the game to maintain their freshness. Confrontations with an ant usually result in mini shoot 'em ups in which you have a frighteningly short time to blow off both antennae to stop it from getting you, but a bizarre and often tongue in cheek array of activities await you from firefighting to a knife fight with the local rednecks. You'll have to navigate the plane for aerial reconnaissance and bombing runs, and even try and save time by escaping from hospital in a wheelchair in a hilarious Gauntlet pastiche.
It goes without saying that It Came From The Desert is extraordinarily polished. The sections all interlock fluently, whilst the graphics, as ever, are excellent. All the townsfolk you come into contact with appear as large animated stills, whilst the locations are authentically put together. The sound adds to this, with a suitably eerie tune for much of the time which changes as you visit other locations, for example to country rock at the bar and the radio station (KBUG), and hoe down violins at the various farmsteads dotted around the map.
I could tell you about there being over twenty locations, and how large amounts of the game play randomly, but you've probably got the picture by now - It Came From The Desert is Cinemaware's most complete game yet. All this and you get to see decent Americans terrorised too!
It's a fun action/adventure game that gets all its inspiration from the many cult horror movies of the 50's and 60's. You are a geologist and have to examine the crash-site of a mysterious meteor, but what you find is not what you were looking for...
A very good adventure strategy game. A little town out in the desert is about to get it's biggest surprise ever as it's about to be overrun by giant ants. And of course you are the only one that can stop them.
It Came from the Desert offers several different game modes like fighting, shooting at the giant ants, arcade flight style, realtime battles in a tank, escape from hospitals chased by the personal and a few more things. The game will end either when you have killed all the ants or when the time is up.
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