Plan 9 From Outer Space
Welcome to the weird and wacky world of obscure-Amiga-games-it’s-crazy-but-awesome-they-even-made. A world where nothing makes sense and things that shouldn’t be are but a world you can appreciate nonetheless.
Yes, there is a Plan 9 From Outer Space game based on Ed Wood’s iconic Z-list movie about plastic UFOs on strings, silent undead weirdos and cardboard plane cockpits. The game was released on the Amiga but also DOS and, being a fan of Ed Wood’s demented attempts at filmmaking, it’s one I was certainly very happy to discover.
But I was also curious: could a game based on a bad movie actually transcend the inherent silliness of the original source material and blossom into something…
Dare I say it…
Let’s take a look.
The game opens and it’s very clear that, although it’s very much based on the film, it won’t follow its plot instead going for a kind of movie within a movie vibe where every character in the game seems to be played either by Vampira (see top picture, above) or Tor Johnson. The plot this time around sees you try and recover various reels from the movie Plan 9 From Outer Space in order to… play the film I guess.
Think Human Centipede 2 but not… disgusting and, in fact, completely different in almost every way.
It’s like if Ed Wood made a game sequel to his own film and used Plan 9 as the game’s macguffin. Very strange but random enough to warrant checking it out, I think you’ll agree?
Right off the bat, it’s obvious the game has a sense of humour about itself which, seeing as it’s based on a movie this goofy, is definitely a good idea. The game came with a booklet which you actually need to get started but this being 2013, you can probably find the codes you need tucked away deep in the bowels of the world wide web. You’ll notice the look of the game is reminiscent of the likes of Psycho on the Commodore 64 where the actual game takes up a small portion of the screen and the rest is filled up by useless pixelated artwork and options like “Use”, “Take”, “Talk” etc. Standard actions you need to play the game but which could have easily been a more subtle part of the visuals.
After speaking to your boss, you browse around and find, through snooping around offices and such, that you need to make your way down to a bar. There, you find Tor Johnson, again, and what could be an angora-sweater-wearing Ed Wood in a cool cameo or just some random, flirtatious woman.
You’re informed that Bela Lugosi himself might still have a reel of the film hidden away somewhere so you head to his place and find…
Yes, you’re seeing this right: Bela Lugosi’s corpse.
Pretty macabre, huh?
Still, something tells me Mr Lugosi would have enjoyed this posthumous, vampiric cameo appearance. Why he’s portrayed as bald and who hammered in that stake so poorly, those questions and more shall forever remain unanswered. While in Bela Lugosi’s house, there’s something you really need to do: in what looks like the living room, click around the frames on the wall and after a while you’ll find a credit card, which just happened to be behind a random trophy.
For some reason.
Talk about a weird place for a vampire to hide his credit card…
It makes no sense but trust me: $100 is nowhere near enough dough to complete the game. Chances are you’ll make a mistake along the way and you’ll have to restart, besides, there’s one point in the game where you’re really gonna need it so don’t forget!
Along the way you pick up various items, of course. Some clearly useful, others placed in ridiculous locations and unclear as to why they even exist. Your inventory isn’t infinite so whenever you feel like getting rid of something you’re able to drop it, which prompts this to happen:
Nope, I don’t know what those things are either.
By the way, if you can also explain to me why Bela Lugosi, a vampire in this game, has a machete in his bathroom which he uses to shave himself during full moons, I would very much appreciate it. Wouldn’t that… make him a werewolf as well as a vampire? I mean, I know he starred in The Wolf Man and it’s a reference to that but…
Why am I nitpicking an Ed Wood game?!
OF COURSE it’s inconsistent, what was I expecting?
Anyway, you travel around in the game by taking taxis everywhere (taxis driven by Voldermort, if the picture above is anything to go by). The animation on that is pretty fun, by the way, as whenever your taxi’s on the movie, it’s always going down the same road, regardless of where you’re going. Your next stop is the local mall which you get to explore by going up various levels in the elevator provided. One of the shops you find is the “Lycanthropository” which is either a place where you can purchase monster-related things or a pharmacy for werewolf medicine to be taken anally.
Either way: I don’t feel very comfortable hanging around there.
There’s a travel agent’s, not to be mistaken with the taxidermy institute…
The payoff to that joke, by the way, is Tor Johnson telling you to “Get stuffed!”.
There’s a shop where you can buy tools but the annoying thing there is that you’re meant to examine the spade behind Tor’s straw-hat-wearing salesman THEN inquire about it. If you chit-chat and/or annoy him before doing that you won’t get anywhere. Talk about linear…
Every time you uncover a reel, you can walk into the nearby cinema, hand it to the projectionist, and he’ll play it to what is quite possibly the most patient and DUMBEST movie audience in the entire world. Who would just sit there and wait for some guy to literally go out and put the pieces of a bad movie back together, wait for crap quality chunks of the film to be shown once every blue moon and be ok with that? I say show these people a Michael Bay flick and be done with it.
They’ll love it.
I mean look at this:
Really? You’re all waiting for a boring, silent 10 second clip when Youtube is showing the entire thing in better quality on your phones?! Surely there’s better things you all could and should be doing!
After a while, you exchange some dollars for foreign currency (including Washington dollars, I kid you not) and you realize you’re actually meant to travel around the world in this game! Yes, you literally go to the airport, bug those two pilots from the movie in the cockpit of the plane itself and fly off to Rio, Hong Kong, Sydney and Washington (you drive to the latter, actually, much less glamorous). This part of the game is confusing as hell but, believe it or not, that’s when things REALLY get nuts.
Happy Days jumped the shark, the Star Trek movies jumped the whales, this game jumped the plane.
And I’m SO happy it did.
In Rio you get a cute Ed Wood reference in a hotel where you see someone signed in previously as “Edwado De Woode” (subtle) but then things get a bit raunchy as you are faced with…
Really far away and really pixelated but still…
Clearly this was designed to keep more impatient gamers interested in a game that’s waaaay too hard for what it essentially is: a joke. Amiga boobs-aside, you find a bat-cave somehow and there you find the next reel. Make sure you have that picture of Bela Lugosi handy (you find it at some point during the game) because the bats will grab it off you and leave you alone.
That said, if you don’t have Bela’s picture: something AWESOME happens.
Here we go.
A bat flies towards you, bites your throat and you turn into a vampire!
Is that an awesome twist or is that an awesome twist?
Well, it’s not because for some reason the game then cuts to that:
So that’s not meant to happen but it’s still a messed-up surprise when it does. Shame they didn’t go with that twist, I could have seen that turn into a really cool, unexpected game! But no. Instead, the game kinda…
Loses its mind.
I’m not kidding, after that, stuff happens and I have NO idea why it’s happening. For example, you’re suddenly arrested at the airport, the police treat you like garbage and a judge sentences you to jail and you don’t even know why! So out of nowhere you find yourself in prison surrounded by skeletons and it’s like: “what the hell happened?”. Besides, is this a prison or that dungeon from the Genesis Aladdin game?
Look what happens when you click on that skull:
To be fair, that is pretty funny.
There are items to pick up in Rio but it hardly feels necessary to make you go so far to find them. In Sydney, Vampira is given her moment to… shine, I guess?
If you’re that geek who was good and patient enough to make it this far, the above image will turn you on way more than it should (it shouldn’t).
Then the rest of the game is like that: completely insane! Not Weird Dreams insane but close! I mean, one second you’re speaking to hippie versions of Tor and Vampira…
…the next you’re falling off bridges (a genuinely terrifying moment, by the way) and meeting ungodly creations like THESE:
Tor Johnson is way more versatile than I recall. He can even be fish!
Mr Limpet’s gonna soil himself when he sees this…
But wait till I show you what you find in Washington. It’s SO good that it’s worth playing the game just so you can get to this bit. Alright, so your taxi drives up to the White House and next thing you know, look who’s answering the door:
Best. Worst joke. Ever.
George Bush Sr. is in an Ed Wood-themed retro game.
I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.
But the game doesn’t end there: suddenly you’re this spy working on an undercover mission for the government.
At this point, I’ll admit I had absolutely no idea where the game was going. A good thing, I’d say. Kept me involved! I like that we started with a pretty straight-forward, simplistic plot and ended up in some kind of nutty cartoon with very little to do with the movie it’s meant to represent. It’s like a totally different group of people made the second half of this game!
I mean, you’re meeting Castro…
…facing ninjas on the Great Wall Of China…
…meeting Tibetan monks…
I mean, what is this? Plan 9 From Outer Space or The Adventures Of Tintin?!
It’s like they started with Ed Wood but ended up with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure somehow in what is probably the world’s very first and only case of Tim Burtonian-dyslexia.
The ending pops up kinda out of nowhere but, despite how little sense it makes, it manages to fit in quite well with how the game was progressing. After all, it wouldn’t be a Plan 9 game without…
The truth IS out there.
In a shock twist (kind of, not really), we realise that we were helping aliens all along and we were being deceived by the very movie mogul we trusted!
Damn you Hollywood…
Wait, weren’t the aliens in Plan 9 From Outer Space people in silver jumpsuits?
Oh never mind, these guys could be another breed of alien I guess. Hell, this could have been called “Plan 10 From Outer Space”! I mean, it’s not like Plan 9 worked all that well, is it?
To sum up: this game is absolutely bonkers. It starts off wacky and confusing then builds up to a nirvana of absolute nonsense. If you can make it past the boring moments from the first half, the second half will never stop amusing you. I should warn you though, this is one near-impossible game to complete without a walkthrough. Some items you’ll never find in a million years without help and some of the stuff you need to figure out is so absurd you’ll lose yourself.
Like Weird Dreams, it’s well worth playing for the surreal nature of the game alone. The controls are pretty straight-forward, exactly what you’d expect from a point and click game of the sort. The graphics know how crappy they are and the developers are clearly having fun with it to the point where it parodies itself more often than not. Seeing full motion video in a game this old is pretty impressive, however, no matter how rubbish it looks.
And if you’re still having doubts about playing this mini-masterpiece of absurdity, here are a few out-of-context screen-shots from the game which will make you want to give up whatever you’re doing and jump in. After all, I only showed you a teaser of how nuts this game actually is!
Ed Wood’s very last masterpiece?