The year is 1993. Wolfenstein 3D is a huge hit, a landmark in the continuing evolution of computer technology. Wolfenstein's creator has been working on a sequel rumored to blow away the original as much as the original blew away previous attempts at 3D games. However, the release date keeps getting pushed back, and users ("gamers" wasn't yet a ubiquitous term back then) were getting anxious. What to do in the meantime?
Enter Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold! JAM Productions used licensed Wolfenstein 3D technology to develop a brand-new game, which was published December 3, 1993 by BBS favorite Apogee Software. Like Wolfenstein, Aliens of Gold featured 6 episodes of 11 levels each (9 normal levels and 2 secret levels). The first episode was available as shareware. The registered version of Aliens of Gold shipped with a comic book, called a "Blake Stone Adventure"; to date it is the only title in the company's product line to include such a bonus.
The game had a few innovations for the genre like being able to talk to people instead of just shoot them, an automap system, one-way doors, slightly greater world interaction in the form of switches to deactivate barriers and using tokens at vending machines to restore health, the ability to revisit earlier levels, etc. It was entertaining for a while, but was only intended to fill the gap until Doom came out — which happened a week later. Oops. Nonetheless, Aliens of Gold got a single-longer-episode sequel, Planet Strike, released on October 28, 1994. Both games are available on Steam, bundled together with Rise of the Triad (the original, not the 2013 remake).
Tropes applying to the series in general:
- BFG: The Plasma Discharge Unit. Like a grenade launcher with the fire rate of an assault rifle.
- Big Bad/Mad Scientist: Dr. Pyrus Goldfire.
- Bottomless Magazines: The Auto-Charge Pistol has infinite ammo, but requires a second or two to recharge between shots.
- Universal Ammunition: All the other weapons in the game run off of energy packs, which can be found in the levels or dropped by enemies.
- Captain Obvious: Other than occasionally giving you items and providing a couple bits of helpful advice (such as the existence of hidden rooms and that pistols and the Plasma Discharge Unit don't work on turrets,) informants aren't actually that helpful and mostly just tell you things you probably figured out hours ago.
- Direct Continuous Levels: In the sense that all the levels are accessed from the same elevator.
- Emergency Weapon: You start off with the Auto Charge Pistol. It's very weak and can only fire one shot at a time, but it automatically recharges (giving effectively infinite ammo) and has stealth capability (firing it does not alert other enemies).
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Almost everything; some of the lab techs are informants that give you advice, ammunition, and food tokens. They won't try to shoot you, and killing them penalizes your mission rating.
- Evil Laugh: Dr. Goldfire. "Hahahahaha, you'll never succeed!"
- First-Person Shooter: Like Wolfenstein 3D before it.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Imagine the officers on the Death Star. Now imagine their uniforms in magenta and lime green.
- Hitscan: Everything but the Plasma Discharge Unit.
- Hollywood Silencer: The Auto-Charge Pistol is silent, allowing for sneaky kills that don't alert other enemies.
- 100% Completion: Each level awards bonus points for killing all the enemies, collecting all the items, and keeping all the informants alive. On that last note, informants are indistinguishable from lab techs that are loyal to Goldfire until you talk to them, and in heated firefights they tend to run around at random. Very easy to make this side goal Permanently Missable.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Agent Stone can carry a number of increasingly larger guns.
- Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Sometimes a weapon or points item will be inside a cardboard box, with THIS END UP printed on it. That you will need to shoot to open.
- Innocent Bystander: The informant Bio-Techs.
- Level-Map Display: Shows miscellaneous information about the level, as well as exposed and hidden areas. In Planet Strike, the map works in real time and has multiple zooms, the closest of which shows non-player actors but also drains battery energy.
- Monster Closet: Some primitive examples in the form of one-way doors that are triggered by stepping on a certain section of the floor.
- Mook Maker: Don't hang around in rooms with electric sockets on the walls. The Plasma Aliens will just keep coming out and will not stop until you are dead.
- No Snack For You: The Food Units require Food Tokens. And even if you have plenty of tokens, the machines will run out if you use them enough.
- Not Quite Dead: The troopers in green will occasionally play dead, then get up and start shooting at you again. Basically if they yell "I'm down!" and explicitly don't fall over in a shower of blood, then they're faking it.
- One-Man Army: Blake Stone, natch.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Robert Wills Stone III. Entered the British Royal Navy as Robert Wills Stone III. Entered the British Intelligence afterwards as 'Blake' so the records couldn't be matched up.
- Random Encounters: Goldfire himself will frequently and randomly appear in levels to attack you, only to teleport out if you attack him enough.
- Recycled INSPACE: Wolfenstein 3D IN SPACE! Literally, but also recycling the engine.
- A Space Marine Is You: Well, Blake is in British Intelligence, so more like A Space James Bond Is You.
- Standard FPS Guns: Unlimited-ammo silenced pistol, more powerful limited-ammo unsilenced pistol, automatic weapon, bigger automatic weapon, grenade launcher. Planet Strike adds a rocket launcher.
- Subliminal Seduction: There's an enemy that seems to be a failed experiment subject which will spout some gibberish phrase when alerted that sounds something like "We Ig Vah!" If reversed, it's just a guy saying "I'll get you!" in a gruff, raspy voice.
- Take Over the World: The end goal of Dr. Goldfire's insidious plot.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you shoot a peaceful informant in view of other informants, this can cause them to turn hostile.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: An early pure-text example in the form of REBA, who frequently shows information on enemies, objectives, weapons, etc.
Tropes specific to Aliens of Gold:
- Boss Warning Siren: A warning klaxon or similar signal normally sounds just before the Final Boss Battle in each of the six missions.
- Easter Egg: Episode 4, Level 4 spells out the JAM Productions logo on the map. And the title of the level? Lunar Operations Gold Opening.
- The End... Or Is It?: After beating the final level, Goldfire can be heard laughing as his base explodes, hinting that he's not done just yet.
- Pun-Based Title: The name comes from both the villain figuring out a way to synthesize pure gold, which he's using to fund his nefarious plans, and from his name: Dr. Goldfire.
- Secret Level: Each episode has two of them, one only reachable by a hidden teleporter on one of the floors, the other reachable by getting the Red keycard on the 9th floor (where the episode's boss is fought) and riding the elevator up to the 10th floor.
- Shareware: Includes the first episode.
Tropes specific to Planet Strike:
- BFG: The Anti-Plasma Cannon. Takes twice as much ammo per shot as the Plasma Discharge Unit, but blows up just about any non-boss object in one shot. Including doors. And informants. And ammo packs.
- Contemptible Cover: Planet Strike was Apogee's first retail title, and by the request of the publisher the box art depicts Blake rescuing a "Bond Girl", which the game never had as part of the mission. Formgen wanted the babe there to attract eyes, according to Apogee.
- Degraded Boss: All six of the original bosses of Aliens of Gold appear as regular (though weakened) enemies.
- Destroyable Items: Ammo crates can be accidentally destroyed, which makes them explode. If you're near them when that happens, you might get hurt.
- One-Winged Angel: The Final Boss (Dr. Goldfire himself) turns into a demonic green creature when Blake opens fire.
- "Open!" Says Me: Doors can be destroyed by shooting them with the Anti-Plasma Cannon.
- Palette Swap: The main alien guards are basically slightly redrawn versions of the human guards from Aliens of Gold with their spoken lines reversed to sound like an alien language in passing.