Posted by Simon Challands on 00:00, 30/10/2000
| Games, RISC OS, Reviews
Shoot'em up action from Skullsoft, reviewed by Simon Jones.
|When it comes to originality, Xenocide fails utterly. It is essentially just a simple, vertically scrolling shoot'em up, very much in the style of Xenon 2 and the myriad of other predecessors. However, originality is not always needed in order for a game to succeed.
This game does not pretend to be introducing anything radically new. Xenocide is for people who have played this genre before, liked it and want a new challenge. Therefore it does not ease the player in gently, but drops them straight in at the deep end.
|Upon starting the game proper, a rather bewildering shop is presented to you. With what seems like hundreds of options it is all rather daunting and there is no immediate way of knowing what to buy. So, you decide to take your chances and enter the battlefield straight away. About thirty seconds later your ship is a burning wreck on Syria Planum. Through experience you gradually realise how to best upgrade your ship in order to give you at least a fighting chance against the hordes of aliens that fly all around you. This adds an element of strategy to the proceedings. The 'shop' is ubiquitous in this genre, but it usually entails just buying whatever is on offer with your massive funds. Xenocide really makes you think about your purchases first, especially as your ship has only a limited capacity.
|Even on 'easy', Xenocide's very first level is remarkably difficult. The screen fills up with ground and air enemies so fast it is rather overwhelming, and seems ridiculous at first. However, after some practice the game becomes much easier, but no less intense, and is really quite exciting at times.
One notable factor of this game is its presentation, which succeeds and fails at the same time. The single title screen music is unremarkable but bearable, and serves to highlight the lack of music in the game itself. The fades used on the title screens are effective, and show an attention to detail that is commendable. The level introductions and the shop are similarly well designed and are very slick, especially for a shareware product. The shop, in particular, is very easy to use, with a little practice, despite its range and complexity of options.
|However, Xenocide's visuals suffer badly from its low-resolution. Several of the menu graphics feature pictures of weapons and ships rendered using 3D modelling packages. This would give it a much more professional look if it wasn't for the fact that the low-resolution spoils it all somewhat. When graphics are being created in expensive packages such as Top Model and Lightwave, they could at least be displayed at a decent resolution.
My review copy experienced a few bizarre problems, but Skullsoft assured me they would be fixed as soon as possible. By the time you read this review, they will probably be solved. It's good to see such a quick and positive response from the programmers.
|Overall, a strange mix of old and new, both in ideas and execution, Xenocide does succeed in being an entertaining and exciting shoot-'em-up. Just be warned that this isn't an immediately accessible blast-frenzy, unlike other games of this type. Had a few compromises not been made with the visual and musical aspects of this production, it would have been quite impressive, especially for the reasonable price of eight quid.
To sum up
- Challenging gameplay
- Light strategy elements
- Attention to design details
- Low resolution
- Unimaginative sound effects
- Too steep learning curve (or cliff)
- Not exactly innovative