Today is Alien Day — a day 20th Century Fox uses to promote all things Alien. (The date falls on April 26th because of the name of the moon in the first film: LV-426.) One of the things Fox has rolled out this year is a neat Alexa skill called “Offworld Colony Simulator,” a game in which you have to escape from a colony without getting eaten by a xenomorph.
The skill is available today: go to your Echo or Alexa-enabled device and say “Alexa, open Alien Simulator,” and it’ll start it up for you. The game is set up as a Weyland-Yutani Corporation beta test for an AI in charge of a colony’s security software. It’s a simple, turn-based affair where you start off in a base, while Alexa provides you with some information about your surroundings. You get to choose what to do: go in a particular direction, search a room, or pick up items you find along the way. It plays a bit like an old-school RPG, where you make your way out of the colony before you run out of time or get eaten by an alien.
Helpfully, the site provides a three-page character sheet that lets you track your inventory, health, and location, so you don’t get lost or forget you have something. There’s also a multiplayer sheet. If you play with a small group of friends, you split the responsibilities between the Captain (who addresses Alexa), a Navigator (who keeps track of where you are), and an Engineer (who keeps track of the stats and gear). After playing through it for most of this morning, I highly recommend taking notes as you go along: it’s very easy to get turned around and lose track of where you are.
The navigating-by-voice aspect of this little RPG lends itself well to the claustrophobic Alien franchise, because it’s up to the player to imagine their surroundings and keep track of where they are. The interface isn’t perfect — a couple of times, I had to repeat suggestions. But it shows off the storytelling potential home assistants have — how voice commands provide a way to play out a story by taking control of a character. Just make sure you don’t run into an alien in the shadows.