Xenon (Amiga) review
"Xenon. Such an evocative game for me. It may on the surface look like just another vertically scrolling shooting game, but to me it is so much more. As I take control of my little tank/spaceship and waggle my Amiga one-button joystick (microswitches clicking into infinity), desperately avoiding the enemy fire and manically collecting the various pick-ups I couldn’t help but be transported back in time… "
Xenon. Such an evocative game for me. It may on the surface look like just another vertically scrolling shooting game, but to me it is so much more. As I take control of my little tank/spaceship and waggle my Amiga one-button joystick (microswitches clicking into infinity), desperately avoiding the enemy fire and manically collecting the various pick-ups I couldn’t help but be transported back in time…
A happier time, a time of romping gaily though the fields with my friends, rolling in the grass, brushing the still cool dew from our laughing faces as we gloried in a summer that looked like it would never end, oh how I miss those days. But at least I have my memories Comforting reminders of innocent times past? Or complete and utter lying rewrites of you own personal history? Personally I think memories are the red-hot needles you would like to stick in the eyes of door-to-door salesmen. But then I’m a sentimental old fool…
Actually I was addicted to Xenon back in 1990. It used to play on the Amiga they had set up in the local electronics shop. I would slouch back from school in my lovely navy blue uniform and park myself in the shop for an hour playing Xenon on the display Amiga. Pale, acne encrusted shop assistants would occasionally try and prise me of it, but they failed. I was stronger than those fools!!! AHAHAHAHA!
Xenon is pretty simple to sum up and simpler to play. For no reason at all you are put in control of a little grey tank. At the touch of the Amiga’s spacebar, this little grey tank can transform into a little grey spaceship. It’s steered with the joystick and the single fire button sprays unlimited ammo at obstacles and enemies. There are many powerups to collect, from a “force” like shield to splitting bullets, rockets and extras lives. Tactics are needed to collect them all, some are on the ground and so you must become the tank, others are on top of buildings so require the spaceship. Both grounded and raised enemies can shoot at you no matter what condition you are in.
The action takes place up a grey tunnel filled with weapons pods that fire at you as well as wave’s of enemy spaceships, enemy tanks and enemy robot ladybirds to name but a few adversaries. Like most games of this ilk you must try and shoot as many as possible using speed to dodge around them as well as make wise use of power-ups. Graphically its very nice, it looks similar in style to Speedball 2, which was by the same developers (The Bitmap Brothers). There is a lovely rounded, chunky feel to the simple but effective environments and enemies. The sound to is pretty funky techno stuff and complements the more laid back nature of this particular shooter.
Laid back? Those aren’t words normally associated with shooters, these tend to be fast and frenetic affairs. But Xenon seems almost sedate by comparison. It’s not a fault of the game. It was designed that way, lots of bullets and rockets fly around the screen. Compared to something like R-Type though it feels almost slow motion. However you are still assaulted by wave after wave of enemies and you must use best forms to kill them with. The slower pace of the game allows you to make the most of the spaceship and the tank.
That said, I was devastated when I came back to the game after ten years and failed dismally to even reach the end of the first level after an hour of trying. I mean my reactions can’t have dulled THAT much in the intervening years. Quite a shock to my fragile ego I can tell you as I cursed and swore my way past the robot ladybirds for the fiftieth time, only to run the tank into a gun turret and explode. An extra lives cheat was most welcome; I could have used an invulnerability one as well.
Still I have to say, the quality of the game still shone through after all these years. The games scrolls smoothly while handling loads of moving sprites on screen. Its slower speed means you become more tactical, and its certainly less intimidating than many faster shooting games. You still have to replay and learn the attack patterns of the enemies to progress a decent way into the game, but its not as impossible as R-Type and offers a much bigger array of power-ups. The tank/spaceship switch is a well-implemented idea as well.
Once again I was overjoyed to find another retro-favourite of mine had stood the test of time well. Xenon is a classic piece of software that due to its failure to appear on the 16bit consoles of the time has been unjustly forgotten. My difficulty in getting to grips again with early-nineties gameplay after the luxury of 21st century control systems and multi-cheat, multi-option gaming proved to be a breath of fresh air. I hadn’t felt this challenged by a game in a long time and as determined to stick with it and persist until the bitter end. Xenon then, a rosy memory that actually proved to be a genuine flower, not a nasty old weed.
Community review by falsehead (March 08, 2004)
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