Among some of the earliest games announced for the exA-Arcadia coin-op platform was an unusual looking one by the name of Heiankyo Alien 3671 or Cosmic Digger 3671 for overseas. It was a modern remake of an obscure arcade labyrinth game that would have received little attention outside of Japan back in 1980. Developed by Mindwave, this game did see a release on Steam back in 2017, and now it’s coming home to arcades with the exA release, with pre-orders popping up on the exA site today.
Here’s the game as seen at California Extreme 2018, although note that gameplay has changed some from what is shown below (I’ll detail that more below):
For those who have never tried this one, it’s really it’s own thing, but if I were to try and compare it to something, I’d have to say it’s like the spawn of Lode Runner, Wizard of Wor, and Amidar – although the original was released before any of those games existed. You are a policeman who must dig holes that function as traps around the city. If an alien falls into one, you must go and cover the hole before they can escape. The Amidar feature comes into play by the buildings becoming claimed by the player as you walk around them, which also helps build your score & score multiplier. Power-ups further help the players gain an advantage as you’d expect them to; Get as high a score as you can before the timer runs out and advance to the next level. This also supports up to 4-players, thus joining the likes of Nippon Marathon Turbo and Lightning Knights.
I also got a chance to play this with exA CEO ShouTime at Amusement Expo 2021, where I was able to see some of the changes in place, although additional changes have been made since then to make the game more intuitive to play. For one, the game was much faster than the CAX version, or for that matter, the original arcade version. The graphics also seemed to have become a little more action-packed (I recall saying at the time that it’s like Jeff Minter had a crack at designing those, with plenty of pixel shattering effects being thrown around). There are arcade exclusive power-ups, as well as native support for 4:3 CRTs, where the map layouts change to fit with the needs of that kind of screen. But one addition that wasn’t present in the AEI version that will be there in the release game are voice overs that help guide the player as to what to do. The controls have also been adjusted to make it easier to handle.
On the price, this also is one of the most affordable games in the exA library, only being beat out by Kira Kira Star Night. A kit can currently be purchased for under $900 (that’s the cart kit, not the exA system).
I’ve mentioned this on my soapbox before, but I’m glad to see the voice overs added to help guide the player. I like to bring up Gauntlet Legends in this regard, but I think it still fits for two reasons: first, most players in an arcade don’t read on-screen text or signs (sometimes they may not even read English or be very proficient at it, but I’ve seen plenty who are natives just gloss over text or ignore it, then complain that the “machine robbed them” or “it’s broken”). At my arcades, we have someone around to help people when they get stuck because they didn’t read something, but a lot of arcades out there don’t have that. The game telling you what is what in a quick and simple way is more effective than relying on an arcade op or other player – assuming any is even there.
Second, this gives the game a chance to have some additional personality that it would otherwise lack. For example, I bet you can remember the narrator from Gauntlet just from me mentioning it. Case in point 😛 Granted, poor narration won’t help here, but when it’s done right, it’s a major plus.
Also as a note, Rival Megagun XE should begin shipping this week; It is currently playable at the Round1USA Puente Hills Mall, if you want to check that one out.
What are your thoughts on this unique game?