X-Multiply (Arcade) review
"One memorable section sends the player down a long corridor to a vast chamber while dodging deadly drops of fluid dripping from the ceiling, leading me to believe my travels had taken me into the depths of the digestive system, where mammoth drops of stomach acid posed a very real threat. Then again, that levelís boss was a snake-like creature that fired bullets suspiciously shaped like sperm, so I may not actually have been in the belly of the beast...."
Initially, I was a bit confused by X-Multiply. Iím used to companies ripping off their rivalsí good ideas, but this was a bit different. During the first stage or two of of this game, I was under the impression Irem was stealing their OWN blueprint to shooting success.
X-Multiply seemed little more than a macabre version of R-Type at first. Made in 1989, it was a horizontally-scrolling shooter that emphasized tight fits through narrow corridors and the need for a player to learn from past deaths in order to successfully navigate the more sadistic deathtraps scattered throughout the gameís seven levels.
And, initially, X-Multiply doesnít really establish its own identity. The opening stage, while more organic and intestinal than the majority of R-Type, could easily have been placed in that game. The only major difference I noticed was that instead of getting a handy-dandy multi-purpose pod for my ship, I received a pair of nice snaky arms. Not only were these things handy for giving my ship a good deal of additional firepower, but they proved to be great defensive tools, as well. By manipulating the joystick, it was easy to send the arms flailing around my ship, protecting it from a good number of enemy projectiles.
Still, cool arms notwithstanding, I wasnít particularly amazed by anything I saw in that first level. It was well-designed and fun, but nothing jumped out at me, grabbed me by the throat and screamed, ďSee! Now THIS is why you play these games!!Ē And the second level didnít change my feelings. Once again, it definitely had its merits, but after playing through R-Typeís giant battleship stage, I really didnít see the need for Irem to replicate it, only with a more demonic foe.
But as the stages rolled by, the game really started to grow on me. The challenges got tougher, the corridors got more claustrophobic and extended periods of survival became much less likely. One stage even broke the pure horizontal mold the game had been in, forcing your ship to descend a vertical shaft to the enclosed room its boss called home. Yeah, after a little while, this game got good....real good ó while ceasing to make me feel like I was simply playing R-Type with altered graphics. While some of the gameís action was reminiscent of that game, other parts reminded me a bit more of Gradius and a few things (including the imagery) made me think of Abadox, which was released for the NES a year later.
The plot (for those who may care) seems to revolve around a heroic sort of chap shrinking down to a microscopic size and entering a human body to eradicate some sort of evil force. With the exception of that big battleship fight, Irem proved to be up to the task of creating stages that captured that theme. Bones and tendons became tight corridors to navigate through, while certain vital organs created their own challenge. One memorable section sends the player down a long corridor to a vast chamber while dodging deadly drops of fluid dripping from the ceiling, leading me to believe my travels had taken me into the depths of the digestive system, where mammoth drops of stomach acid posed a very real threat. Then again, that levelís boss was a snake-like creature that fired bullets suspiciously shaped like sperm, so I may not actually have been in the belly of the beast....
But even if X-Multiply didnít feature an epic battle against a gigantic, angry trouser snake, it still would deliver lots of great moments. The moving ceiling and floor in the fourth stage provided a number of tight fits, as what seemed to be a wide-open chamber would instantly shrink to a microscopic tunnel. The next level started out somewhat generic, with the shipís main adversary being a bunch of stationary bubbles ó allowing me to enjoy the ever-tedious (not to mention overused) task of shooting a bunch of tiny things to clear a path. Things picked up a bit during that stage, though, as those bubbles started providing support to crystal barricades. Now, I had to quickly shoot all the bubbles around a barricade to make it plummet out of my way and then move on to the next....and the next. The crystals got closer and closer together and it became trickier and trickier to shoot all the bubbles in time until I started wondering if it was humanly possible to get through this stage.
And when I failed, I didnít simply get reincarnated right at that point, able to use the first few seconds of my new shipís life to get past a lethal obstacle or two. The gameís checkpoint system sent me back to the beginning of that area, forcing me to learn how to efficiently blast and dodge my way past all those bubbles and crystals. To beat X-Multiply, one has to learn how to overcome its challenges, one by one. Unfortunately, the final level has no checkpoints, with each death sending the player back to the levelís beginning. This isnít cool, as the final stage was my least favorite of the seven.
For the first portion of this level, I was confronted by devices that constantly spewed out seemingly indestructible gray globes. If I couldnít immediately shoot the things emitting these hazards, odds are Iíd quickly get destroyed by the unpredictable movement of the globes. And if I made one mistake there or against the very tricky two-part final boss fight, Iíd have to do the entire thing over again. Thatís not a fun way to conclude an enjoyable game.
Still, X-Multiply is one of the better retro horizontal shooters Iíve played. The grotesque graphics are a nice change of pace from the typical ďbase-cave-outer spaceĒ routine that most such games force the player to endure over and over again and the action is excellent. Enemies come from all angles and waste no time in filling the air with bullets if not shot down immediately ó a task that can be easier said than done, due to a number of excellent levels designed in such a way that it often isnít easy to quickly dart all over the screen. The beginning of the game might have been a bit dull and the end was overly frustrating, but the majority of X-Multiply was a wonderfully macabre joyride.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 04, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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