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ALF (Master System, 1989)

What did we do to deserve this?

Not even ALF’s clueless smile can save this mistake.




GENRE: Adventure


Every child of the 80s remembers “ALF,” the TV show starring a brown, long-schnozzed Muppet from space. No other primetime show starred a Muppet in 1986, so naturally “ALF” was a hit with families and Muppet lovers everywhere. The show is very much of its time – laugh tracks, cheesy jokes, suburban family with no real problems – but it also maintains a certain innocence missing from the darker, cruder fare of today.

ALF’s swimsuit comes direct from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Somewhere in the middle of “ALF”‘s four-season run, Sega of America and developers Nexa pooped out a Master System game based on the show. The end result was a sloppy adventure title, rightfully dubbed one of the worst Master System games ever made. The controls are terrible, there’s little to no sense of direction, almost everything can kill you, ALF’s sprite takes up half the screen and he can only get hit once before he dies. Enemies include zoot suit perverts, bats that don’t stop regenerating, rats that can’t be killed. ALF has a salami stick for a weapon, but otherwise has no ability to defend himself. More than any other Master System game thus far, ALF is a rotten cat sandwich.


The game’s story mirrors the plot of the TV show: ALF crash lands his space ride on top of the Tanner family house and has to find the right parts to fix it. In order to get the parts, ALF leads you through rabbit trails of nonsensical item collection and meaningless exploration. Thank God there aren’t many environments to explore. The Tanner House (ALF’s surrogate human family), a cave underneath the house, a busy street complete with two stores where you’ll need to buy items and that’s it (there’s also an underwater area and space area, but those are more action-oriented).

Eventually, you’ll run into the items you need to get by accident; none of the items appear different or stand out from the background. Collect a cat to chase the mouse out of the basement. Get the salami stick from the cave to fend off the bats in the cave. Get the money found in a hut in the cave to buy a swimsuit… and it goes on like this. You interact with your environment by pressing button II, but if you don’t know what you’re supposed to collect, you’ll be mashing buttons everywhere in hopes that ALF finds something useful.

Some pervs are bigger than others.

Even the best of adventure games are prone to make players wander around in search of items that seem ludicrous, but are actually important. But the best of adventure games does not include ALF. Indeed, “wandering around” is ALF‘s main problem. The character controls like a sack of rocks. He doesn’t jump forward with a simple intuitive button press, you have to force him to jump. This gets especially worrisome in the caves. ALF’s sprite is almost too big for the small spaces the developers ask you to push him through; precise jumps are out of the question. And if you get the hang of jumping, there’s still ALF’s weaknesses to contend with. Scratch that: ALF himself is one giant weakness. One hit and he’s dead, and the hit radius that surrounds him is surprisingly large. Enemies don’t have to touch you, they just have to come close enough and ALF will die and float off to heaven. Good riddance.

That’s right, ALF. Fell your enemies with that salami stick.

ALF‘s lead programmer, Kevin Seghetti, openly admitted that the game was awful in the SMSPower forums. While he takes full responsibility for the controls and playability (at one point, saying that he can’t believe how difficult the game is to control), he does admit that he was inexperienced. ALF was also rushed to fulfill deadlines (according to SegaRetro), which explains why it looks, plays, and sounds like it was made in five minutes. Mix lack of time with lack of experience and questionable source material, and you have ALF, a predestined piece of space trash.


21 replies on “ALF (Master System, 1989)”

I’ve been waiting for this review for some time, not because I think it’s such a great game, but because I want to hear other tortured players come to share the misery. I think I actually finished it back when I was a kid and had the time to waste. I was a fan of the tv show, so the game must be great too, right?

I went back and played it four or five years ago and couldn’t believe the crap that I played back in the day.

It’s actually worth some money on eBay, probably due to the rarity which I sold my copy to.

If you want a good laugh watch this video by the angry video game nerd about the game:

The mention of ALF brings up fuzzy memories of a weird looking puppet that eats cats and that behind the scenes clip that surfaced a couple years ago where he swears and spouts racial slurs.

Also this

Also, the Master System was pretty weak for licensed titles, hey? The NES’s tie-in games might not have been that great but at least they had Terminator and Die Hard games instead off a few crummy Sly Stallone offerings and…ALF.

The Master System may not have had the licensing muscle that the NES had, but… in the end, I think that was for the best, since only the Disney/Capcom partnership was really profitable. Most of the NES’s licensed games are published by LJN, developed by Beam Software or Ocean and are complete garbage on the level of ALF.

I’ve never had the misfortune of playing ALF and after reading your review I doubt I ever will.
Dylan would you say this is the worst game upto yet on the Master System ? And dare say as terrible as some of the SG-1000 games ?

This is a “What the…?” game if I ever saw one. Some pre-existing properties are natural fits for conversion into a video game: Rambo, Batman, The Terminator, Star Wars…the games may not always be good, but they make sense. ALF is just…I mean…he EATS CATS, for crying out loud!

However, I would have loved it if there had been a “Cosby Show” SMS game back in the day. Your jokes would just write themselves, Dylan!

I wonder whether around the time of the Alf game’s release, the show came inbedded (before, inbetween or after an episode was broadcasted) with some commercials for it?

One of the few MS games we didn’t get in Europe, so you Americans better be proud of it! 😉

Ps: I just came back from a 3-week trip to New York. Great city! (the architecture, museums, neighbourhoods, people, …) I Definetely want to go back soon. I also had the time to check some of the retrogame stores there, but was a bit underwhelmed. I expected NES games to be much more common and cheap in the States, but that sadly was not the case

Also: does a regular beer cost you 8 dollars + tip in Austin?

Hey Pieter!

Yeah, be thankful ALF remained here in America. It has no redeeming qualities and Europe is better off without it.

Very cool that you went to New York! Unfortunately, that is one of the most expensive cities in America. Beers in Austin cost about $4 or $5, not including tip. 8 dollars?! Yikes.

And yes, unfortunately, the retro gaming bubble has yet to burst. Some prices for NES games are absolutely ludicrous, given their commonness (Legend of Zelda, Contra, etc.)

A lot of the problem is collectors that hoard with intent of driving the price up. I collect vinyl records and it’s the same problem. That and people who will shell out big bucks for crap.

I beat ALF a few years ago, in an afternoon or so. It’s a bad game by console standards, but if you’ve played a lot of 1980s computer games with adventure elements — where horrific collision detection and bizarre logic are the norm — it’s pretty much par for the course. It also helps if you have some vague nostalgia for the source material.

Truth be told, I found ALF less offensive than some of the really trashy phoned-in arcade ports on the SMS — like Vigilante and ESWAT, which sport some of the most godawful color combinations I’ve ever seen in a console game. It’s as if SMS programmers were determined to show off the system’s color palette advantage over the NES, but had no idea how to actually USE those colors. And let’s not even talk about the idea of “replay value”, which seemed to escape them entirely at least 50% of the time (in the US SMS release library, at least, where far too many games offered about 2 hours gameplay, max).

As I played ALF, I wondered if it would be the starting point for a new wave of SMS crap. After 1989, I have very little faith in the works I’ll be reviewing. Haven’t tackled Vigilante or ESWAT yet, but I appreciate the warning.

And yeah, the lack of replay value is something that plagues the entire Master System library, but I attribute that to the more arcade-y nature of the system and the titles.

There are at least two gems left, whick I’m looking forward to reading your reviews – Golden Axe Warrior and Ultima IV.

Actually the SMS has a lot of really good games left. Some of the best. Sadly I never played most of them. It helped that GG development spurred SMS development of titles. Golden Axe Warrior I hear is basically a better Zelda. I know people who swear by the SMS versions of Moonwalker and Castle of Illusion. And Power Strike 2 is supposed to be an amazing shooter. (Even though it has nothing to do with the first power strike) Master of Darkness is a Castlvania like game. I like the the Vigilante port. I also liked time soldiers. WB3 the best game outside of Phantasy Star maybe, (Depending on your tastes) is the last SMS game I played. I really have no idea on a lot of the games. Europe got so much stuff we didn’t.

“I know people who swear by the SMS versions of Moonwalker and Castle of Illusion.”

I think Sean is right on the mark here! A lot of the MS renditions of Mega Drive games aren’t just watered down ports of the original, but unique play experiences of themselves (despite the source material not being original). the MS “Castle of Illusion” is one of my all time favorites for any console period!
I also like the MS Sonic games more than the MD ones. But I do realise I’m practically olone in this. The MS ones are way more Mario-esque. In that sense I can understand that Sonic fans do not consider them to be real Sonic games. I guess I’m just more of a Mario fan

Some other great MS titles to come. “Alex Kidd in Shinobi World”; “Asterix”, …

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