It Came from the Desert is a 1989 action-adventure game by Cinemaware. It was originally released for the Amiga, but later ported to MS-DOS, as well as released in distinctly different forms to consoles. The TurboGrafx-16 release is distinctly different from the computer versions, in terms of gameplay and presentation. An expansion set Antheads: It Came from the Desert II was released in 1990.
The game is inspired by dozens of 1950s 'B' movies, especially the 1954 mutant-ant classic Them!, with the title referencing the 1953 horror film, It Came from Outer Space. The game is a non-linear combination of dialogue boxes and several types of action scenes, typical of contemporary Cinemaware releases.
The player assumes the role of Dr. Greg Bradley who comes to remote Lizard Breath, California on June 1, 1951. As a geologist, he wants to study a recent site of a meteor crash somewhere in the desert south-west of the small town. Early in the game, he learns that the radiation of the meteor has enlarged a local ant population to an enormous size. However, few take his observations seriously. Worried, that the ants will soon mate and spread, he must work against a ticking clock and devise a plan to stop the ants from terrorizing the world. In order to succeed, the player must visit many locations ranging from mines, farms, a pub, an airfield, a local radio station and many more to find evidence of the ants, then convince townsfolk and authorities of impending doom. At the same time the player must contain the ant infestation.
Only in using every resource available, from workers to the tanks and fighter jets of the National Guard, will the player be able to take the fight to the giant ants.
Mechanically, It Came From the Desert can be considered real-time. Waiting, sleeping (at home or in a hospital bed) and driving around consumes time. As it turns out, the player has a fixed amount of in-game days (15 days, ending with June 15) to succeed. If Dr. Bradley fails by this date, the ants will mate and spread, which results in a gloomy ending. To reach a good ending, the player must locate the ant colony and kill the queen ant.
The player must replay the game, and take information into account that was learned in previous games, and then optimize a path ('when to be where') to stop the ants. Typically, the player cannot win the game in one play-through and a conventional game over doesn't exist. Instead, when Dr. Bradley gets 'killed' he awakes in hospital and time jumps forward as a penalty to reflect the time that has passed spending in bed. Alternatively, the player can try to avoid the penalty by succeeding in a hospital escape minigame, which also acts as a comic relief.
The duration of one play-through can be about one hour. It will vary due to thinking, exploring and time spent with reading, time wasted ('skipped') from driving around and other factors. Early stages involve more dialogue and collecting clues, later it is more action-oriented; especially when the player succeedes in convincing the authorities to declare an emergency (this can be as early as the 6th day if the player collects four pieces of ant evidence, or as late as the 10th day if the player fails to collect all four pieces). Dr. Bradley's actions and decisions in the dialogue have an influence on the characters, and as a result, on the story, including (at least) two endings.
It Came From the Desert utilizes different gameplay types, a hallmark of Cinemaware games. An 'adventure' mode provides the overall structure and advances the plot. A main 'action' mode is used to combat and defeat the ants. A collection of minigames cover special aspects of the narrative.
More details about this game can be found on
5 different online emulators are available for It Came from the Desert. These emulators differ not only in the technology they use to emulate old games, but also in support of various game controllers, multiplayer mode, mobile phone touchscreen, emulation speed, absence or presence of embedded ads and in many other parameters. For
maximum gaming enjoyment, it's important to choose the right emulator, because on each PC and in different Internet browsers, the individual emulators behave differently. The basic
features of each emulator available for this game It Came from the Desert are summarized in the following table: