Thursday, January 12, 2023

Arcade Maze Game Review: Heiankyo Alien

Heiankyo Alien is an interesting game. It's a maze game that predates Pac-Man that was created by the Theoretical Science Group of the University of Tokyo. It isn't a classic like Pac-Man, and the game doesn't have the grab-and-play mechanics of that game either. However, once the game mechanics are understood, it's enjoyable to play.

The game features a Heian-period police officer who protects the capital city by digging holes to trap aliens and then shoveling dirt on top of them. The gameplay is to dig a hole, lure an alien, and then fill the hole back up before the alien escapes and grabs you. Holes can be dug up to three times. The deeper the hole, the longer the alien stays in it. However, it also takes longer to fill the deep holes too.

I've heard about this game before, because of its historical significance as an early maze game. I hadn't had an opportunity to try it, however, until I picked up the PasocomMini MZ-80C. This console contains the original version of the game for the NEC MZ series. I can see why Denki Onkyō decided to adapt it for the arcade market, and why Sega/Gremlin opted to release it in North America.

It does have an arcade quality to it. Heiankyo Alien drops you right into the game. Without any knowledge of how the game works beforehand, it takes a while to get used to the mechanics. Once the mechanics are understood, it is mostly a fun experience, but the mechanics of the game are a bit wonky, and takes a while to get used to them.

Heiankyo Alien, without a doubt, is a game with historical significance. It is one of the first maze games, and it is fun once you get used to the mechanics. It doesn't reach the levels of the pinnacle of the genre, Pac-Man, as it's not a pick-up-and-play game with infinite replayability. However, if you are a fan of maze games, it might be worth playing.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

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