Hey Willy! ALF (Sega Master System) (1989)

The quirky, furry, wisecracking ALF had a bit of a cultural moment there in the late 1980s, enjoying a licensing spree spun out of the decently popular NBC sitcom. He got a cartoon, some toys on shelf, and a Pizza Hut hand puppet. He also had a handful of educational video games and toward the end of his trajectory through stardom had an entertainment video game on a console. Simply titled “ALF”, this Sega Master System release follows the recipe of the sitcom but leaves out a lot of the flavor.

The game begins with roughly the same premise as the show: ALF’s spaceship is crashed on Earth, there are government agents out to get him, and he his ultimate goal is to fix his ship and get out of there. This would be a pretty decent story to tell in a game, but what we get instead is a smaller, space scooter that is also broken and a charge to fix it so that ALF can go to the moon and get the space ship repair kit so he can meet his girlfriend Rhonda on Mars. What?

The player has “free will” to travel the town, covering all of 5 or 6 different locations in an attempt to find the parts to fix the scooter. In a Metroidvania-lite fashion, the player must collect items that allow them to access new parts of areas they’ve already been to. Natural solutions to common problems, like finding a salami stick to fight bats.

The copy reflects an attempt to capture ALF’s wisecracks and attitude, comically falling flat due to the lack of proper punctuation. The jokes come across like text messages from your parents.

A few arcade-stye moments exist alongside the adventure/Metroidvania elements; there’s a cave where you fight said bats with said salami stick, an underwater level where you have to avoid a flood of harpoons, and a harrowing trip through space once you fix that weird space scooter.

Through it all you’ve got to avoid the government agents, all of whom come at you with weird creepy “gotcha” jazz hands.

The graphics are pleasant, though. The team behind this game would have been justified at giving half the effort here, and the attention to the graphics is a real shining aspect of this game. The trip into space is actually a minimalist dream, and the integration of cats into the background is a really nice touch.

Is it weird to have expected more out of this game? The beautiful thing about ALF is that, while ridiculous, the premise opens up some cool possibilities. When you bring the cartoon’s cannon into the equation, basically anything is possible. This game copies and pastes the series’ original premise, clumsily changes the stakes so that the sitcom premise is actually broken after the events of this game, adds a few ‘Goonies II’ style exotic levels, and calls it a day. A lazy way to take the shortest path to make a licensed game. That said, it’s a decent experience. Not the best licensed game out there, but far from the worst.