Organism starts off with one of the most atmospheric and cinematic introduction screens seen on the Commodore 64. The scenes depict a military grade transport container (SS Heracles) on 6-month journey through space where you, the first crew member to awake from hyper-sleep, report in to your employer back on Earth that all looks fine aboard and that the the rest of the crew is starting to wake. However, not soon after, an alien breach is detected and you are ordered to abort the mission, contain the spread of the dangerous organism on board, destroy all evidence and set off the self-destruct sequence before jumping into one of the ship’s escape pods to safety.
So your task is to explore the 26 decks of the Heracles searching for any remaining crew members and collecting their ID tags, finding data disks that will help you shut down the ship’s computer systems and eliminating the Queen Alien Organism.
As you commence your mission, you immediately realise that alien organisms have spread all throughout the ship. You initially come across crawling face huggers that are quite easy to dispose, but as you use the ship’s elevator system to make your way down to the mid-level decks, you encounter two legged aliens that have greater mobility, making them more difficult to pin down and eliminate. Rooms and corridors within the ship are quite similar from one deck to another, with the colour scheme being the main point of differentiation.
Some sections within the ship are locked down and will require pass keys to be collected in order to be able to proceed beyond them. To help you locate the various items required for your mission, your suit contains a location scanner that guides you in the general direction of any collectible items on the current deck you are on.
Organism features high resolution graphics with limited palette of colours on display on any one one screen. The graphical style, along with the semi-isometric viewpoint is effective in providing a C64 game that looks refreshingly different and distinct. Your character is large and very well defined, moving about the ship quite freely. The various rooms and corridors of the ship are drawn out with subtle nuances and detail. However, the two-legged alien organisms are only represented in solid colour silhouettes, which feels like a bit of a let-down for characters that are a significant element of the game.
The Alien inspired soundtrack that plays right across the game does a very good job at providing atmospheric vibe that is very effective in conveying the dangers your crew member is faced with. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some of the sound effects as the gun blaster sound effects are puny and sound ineffective.
After exploring a number of the deck levels within the game, you sense that Organism is going to struggle to keep the player’s attention due to its shallow and repetitive game play. There are only three alien types for you to deal with in the game with no real differences in the number of shots required to kill them. Given that many of the aliens re-spawn each time you revisit an area, there is no incentive to actually try to kill them, instead you will find yourself trying to out manoeuvre or out run them to safety.
To help break up the monotony, when you do access a terminal computer, the game invokes a mini-puzzle game that requires you to connect the same colour points without any of the lines intersecting with one another. Solve the puzzle and you get to dump the sensitive data off the terminal and onto the data disks.
Once you have collected all the evidence, your overall mission is almost complete. Before you can head off to the escape pod, you need to head off to a room on Deck X, that was previously inaccessible, and engage in a long drawn out shootout with the Queen Alien. The boss battle features an impressively huge alien but it has a somewhat benign and predictable attack pattern that can be overcome without too much fuss and is an underwhelming climax to the game.
Below is a video version of this review.
Organism’s high production values do a great job to grab your attention and make you feel like you are about to play something epic but the shooter element of the game is repetitive and unrewarding and only those that love puzzle and exploration games will be able to see the game through to the end.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.