It Came from the Desert

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It Came from the Desert
Amiga cover art
Developer(s) Cinemaware
Publisher(s) Cinemaware
Producer(s) Pat Cook
Designer(s) David Riordan
Programmer(s) Randy Platt
Writer(s) Kenneth Melville
Platform(s) Amiga, MS-DOS, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, TurboGrafx-16
Release date(s) 1989
Genre(s) Action-adventure game
Mode(s) Single-player
Distribution Floppy disk, cartridge

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 two console versions, for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive (unreleased) and TurboGrafx-16, are distinctly different from the versions released for computer platforms, in terms of gameplay and presentation. An expansion set Antheads: It Came from the Desert II was released in 1990.

Like most of Cinemaware's titles, It Came From the Desert takes its inspiration from Hollywood. This game is inspired by dozens of 1950s "B" movies, especially the 1954 mutant-ant classic Them!. The game is a fairly non-linear combination of dialogue boxes and several types of action scenes, typical of contemporary Cinemaware releases.


Gameplay centers on the player choosing what they want to do by selecting an option on the multiple choice screens that pop up. There are several buildings in town, as well as farms, mines, an airport, and even a drive-in theater. Since time ticks away quickly at one minute per second of real time, quick decision is key to success.

Once the investigation begins, the player soon realizes there are large, mutant ants roaming around the outskirts of town. These ants are dangerous, and to survive the player must fight them using a handgun, grenades, dynamite, flamethrowers and pilot a crop duster to spray the ants with insecticide.

The most important part of the game is to prove to the townspeople that the giant ants are real and convince the mayor to call upon the national guard to fight the ants. Only in using every resource available in town, 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.

A number of minigames were activated in certain scenarios, such as playing chicken, a knife fight, shooting the antennae off ants, and a top-down perspective on the player used in hospital escape missions and moving around the town on foot or in the air to attack or escape from ants.

Time is in short supply. Players must find and eradicate the queen ant and her lair in a mere 15 days, before the ants make an all-out attack on Lizard Breath (on June 15). It is possible to fend off the first ant attack, which will give players a last chance, so they can counter-attack and destroy the lair with the remaining few hours. Should players fail again, however, it is impossible to stop the second attack. Lizard Breath will be lost unless the lair is destroyed before night falls on June 15.


The game is set in 1951. When the rural American town of Lizard Breath witnesses a meteor fall, town geologist and player character Greg Bradley has to discover the source of some strange occurrences. His role as a young man of science in a 1950s movie setting also gives Bradley the ability to operate aircraft, heavy machinery and several types of firearms, and to suffer no injury worse than a flesh wound unless he's committing a heroic sacrifice.



It Came From the Desert was originally released for the Amiga in 1989 and then was ported to several other popular systems of the era. In early 1991, Cinemaware released a version for MS-DOS. The latter was a last attempt of Level 9 Computing to stay in business, still the firm closed in June of that year. These versions were, apart from minor palette differences, identical to the original.

A Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version was to be released in 1990, but was cancelled. It is an overhead shooter with the main protagonist running around on foot, although it features more free roaming gameplay than traditional scrolling shooters. Among the differences in play mechanics, the Sega version allowed the player to create powerups that were fashioned by collecting machinery pieces and joining them together in different combinations. The storyline also differs from the game, instead casting the player not as the scientist from the original but as a teenage pest control worker known as Buzz who makes a variety of improvisational weapons with various materials combined with his pest control equipment. Although the Sega version was never actually offered for sale, it was distributed as a ROM image (for use with console emulators) from the Cinemaware website after the turn of the 21st century. Despite the similarity of camera perspective, the Sega version did not appear to reuse any of the graphical elements created for use in the computer-based versions. In 2014 Cinemaware teamed up with Pier Solar developer WaterMelon to develop a cartridge version called Extended Cut. It will include new cutscenes, endings, a new intro sequence and "additional gameplay elements".[1]


The TurboGrafx-CD version was released in 1991.[2] It is a CD-ROM based game that made use of full motion video with recorded sequences of live actors. There were also action sequences that used drawn graphical elements (not captured, as seen in games such as Mean Streets by Access Software). The side-scrolling action sequence consisted of the player battling ants in tunnels. The TurboGrafx-CD version did reuse the graphical elements from the computer version for the overhead battle sequences, but not for any of the character conversation segments. Unfortunately, this version was marred by poor quality of the video playback of the system, and the limitations of the game console hardware that resulted in side scrolling arcade sequences that were tacky in terms of gameplay. The acting in the video sequences was of B-movie quality by intention, keeping in-line with the source material that served as an inspiration for the game. The storyline and characters were also dramatically changed, the player character is no longer a spry scientist from the city visiting the countryside, but now a local teenage biker punk named Buzz Lincoln who is somehow immune to the ant queen's mind control and begins a nearly hopeless counterattack against her hordes.

Expansion set[edit]

It Came From the Desert was followed by an expansion pack called Antheads: It Came from the Desert II in 1990. Antheads was made available in the United States through mail order directly from Cinemaware, and on store shelves in Europe. Antheads ias not a standalone game; it requires ownership of the original chapter in order to play.

The story of the game takes place 5 years after the previous and expands on the possible second Ant Queen mentioned in the first game's ending. The protagonist is an Army officer named Brick, who has stolen a detonator for an atomic bomb as his kid brother is a tester for the weapon and fears that the Army's then-ignorance of radiation will cause his brother and other testers to die. Brick tries to find Dr. Wells who has since died and is ambushed by surviving soldier ants who steal the detonator to rouse their dormant second queen. Brick must find Dr. Wells' notes that prove radiation is fatal as well as help the town fend off the new ant army.


Computer Gaming World called It Came from the Desert "one of the most enjoyable programs yet to emerge from Cinemaware ... a very playable and compelling game with many enjoyable hours to be experienced".[3] Antheads won game of the year honors from Computer & Video Games magazine.[citation needed]


  • An extensive spinoff appeared in Command & Conquer: Red Alert as four secret missions named "It came from Red Alert," where the player combats giant ants.
  • It Came From the Desert was parodied in a Space Quest IV reference: the player can find the box of the "Enemaware" game It came for Dessert in a store, where the woman holds a cake, and a fat man replaces the ant.


  1. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (1 December 2014). "It Came From the Desert is getting an Extended Cut... on Sega Mega Drive". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "It Came From The Desert for Turbo CD - GameFAQs". GameFAQs. Retrieved 1 Jun 2013. 
  3. ^ Greenberg, Allen L. (April 1990). "It Came from Out of the Disk Drive / Cinemaware's "It Came From The Desert"". Computer Gaming World. p. 10. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 

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