Thursday, 1 November 2018

The crazy world of Giger knock-offs

Let’s face it, even if you don’t like or appreciate his work, Giger had an immeasurable effect on many different creative forms. His uncanny, gothic, necrophiliac finger prints can be felt to this day in films, comics, sci-fi and horror art. His most famous creation, the ‘big guy’ from Ridley Scott’s Alien, has entered the cannon of horror archetypes, alongside Karloff’s Frankenstein and Lugosi’s Dracula. The alien has even solidified into stone, and graces this cathedral as a gargoyle.

Sometimes these derivative works are quite good. Most of the time, not so much. But there is a breed of lurid, psychedelic, technicolour Giger-inspired design that emerged in 90s video games which is close to my heart. What follows is a whistle stop tour of some of the greats. I going to forgo individual commentaries and just discuss what they have in common.

Clumsy handling of the bio-mechanical aesthetic is one shared attribute. But I love the way Giger’s subtle, transparent necrotic flesh is reinterpreted (badly) as lumpy airbrush forms. His fine arterial-like pipework becomes chubby vacuum hoses that cling awkwardly to surfaces. His voluptuous, almost-human mouths with ever-so-slightly enlarged canine teeth become goofy maws filled with fangs that would make a deep sea fish jealous. But the 90s was an era of hope after the po-faced nuclear despair and depression that dogged the 80s. And the decade’s optimism can be detected in video games, which, with the dawn of the 16-bit era, now had enough pixels and colours to actually represent what customers saw on the box art. Thus, titles like Alien Storm brought you face to face with knock-off Giger baddies to blast away.

Kudos needs to go to blogger Why I'm Not An Artist, who had the exact same idea for this post two years ago. And Bloody Disgusting. But by the time I found their pieces I'd written this, so I figured I'd publish and be damned anyway.

Alien Storm - teaching kids how to win friends and influence people

Xenophobe, a bit earlier than the era I'm concerned with, but the artwork is so 'great' I couldn't resist including it.

R-Type didn't even have the decency to even try with their advertising - the artist just drew an alien and figured that was fine.

Shadow of the Beast creators Psygnosis enlisted Roger Dean to create their box art and gave us some Giger homages in a couple of their levels.

Turrican's boss looks familiar, in a clumsy way. Kind of like a puppy. With too many teeth.

Z-Out didn't want to be left behind so channelled some Giger love. Consonant-[shortword] was clearly a popular name choice thanks to R-Type.

Contra III also got in on the biomechanics action.

Devil Crash even managed to get some Giger into a pinball game.


  1. Fantastic - and hideous - stuff! It's not quite what you're thinking about, but Giger did do an official game for the Amiga, called Darkseed. It was quite good, if very difficult, if I remember rightly.

    There were also a series of games called Alien Breed, which simply were Aliens the game. They were absolutely shameless in their Gigeryness (and quite fun).

    1. Thanks Toby! Yes, I remember Dark Seed but left it out as it was less a knock-off and more a sanctioned game. But I had totally forgotten about Alien Breed, so thanks for the heads up on that one!

  2. My favourite of these was one called Blade, which it took me way too long to find any evidence of, and I was starting to think that I'd mis-remembered, or outright imagined it until I finally stumbled across a reference with a couple of screenshots ( None of the pics there really show off the more Giger-esque aliens from it, tho. Flashback city to that and so many Psygnosis games and more. Thanks for bringing those to mind again!

    1. Ah, good call WestRider. I have never heard of Blade, but it looks kinda cool. I wonder if it came out on any platforms other than Mac.

    2. It was Mac only, at least on initial release. My brother and I thought it was cool, because it was the first time there was a game we could play that our friends with PCs couldn't, rather than vice-versa.