A classic game for sure.
This was released for the ZX Spectrum by Melbourne House in 1988 and was met with a lot of high praise.
Funnily enough the Xenon series ended up being regarded as classic games on the Commodore Amiga (by the legendary Bitmap Brothers) - but to be fair this version was extremely playable and also featured some excellent music that really showcased the AY Chip (courtesy of musical genious David Whittaker).
Like any good arcade style shoot em up there was a back story to explain why you were pitched in battle against a bunch of bad guys...
From the moment that Captain Xod's (kneel before Xod?) face appeared on the communicator, you just knew he was in deep do do. As the only other ship in the sector it was up to you to go to his aid.
Fight your way through the many game zones whilst collecting essential supplies for the fleet. At the end of each sector you have a chance to refuel and reload ammunition - but only after you have defeated the most vicious alien you have ever seen. Game on!
So there you have it - the best plot since The Phantom Menace. In the game you had to negotiate four sectors, each of which were divided into four game zones. Like I said this is classic arcade gaming.
In a nice twist had a choice of two craft which could be changed at will depending on the environment. You were in control of a ground craft which was capable of eight-way movement as well as a faster jet-fighter.
It was up to you to select the appropriate craft to negotiate the current obstacles and you also had to be prepared to switch between them rapidly. Certain types of your opponents were ground based and some were at altitude - meaning that only the right craft could destroy certain enemies you faced.
In true arcade gaming tradition there were powerups aplenty. Certain weapons could only be collected and used by the fightercraft and vice-versa. Shooting the aliens and their weapon emplacements revealed power cells which could be collected to give you some much needed juicy powerups.
The powerups available were:
- A ARMOUR - Granted invincibity for 15 seconds
- F FUEL - There were two types of fuel cell. Those with one orange band restored five fuel units; those with three restored fuel to full
- H HOMING - Gave homing missiles for 15 seconds
- L LASER - Armed your fighter with lasers. Duh!
- G GUN - Canceled the lasers (boo!) and reverted to normal bullets (a power down?)
- P POWER - Increased the range of your shots
- R RATE - Sped up your ground craft
- S SIDE - Armed fighter with side firing lasers
- W WINGS - A can of red bull. Only joking, gave you wing-tip weapons
- Z ZAP - Two types of zap pills. A single orange band zapped all aliens on the screen; a triple band zapped aliens and emplacements
- Balls - Up to three rotating balls that followed you and replicated your fire pattern. Nice.
This game was quite tough and for the seasoned arcade gamer.
Each time you were hit by you lost at least a unit of fuel which was used to recharge your shields. If you collided with any of the aliens you suffered substantial damage and consequently used up more fuel.
If your fuel ran out you lost a life and had to restart from the beginning of the current game zone. Some aliens required more than one hit to destroy and some were indestructable - all of the traditional arcade gaming elements were here.
In keeping with this gaming tradition you would face off against a single large opponent roughly half way through the current level. This was a 'Sentinel', a supposed fully sentient enemy. As usual you had to find out the vulnerable points and concentrate your fire upon it - it was the only way to destroy these big bad boys.
Colliding with a 'Sentinel' was instantly fatal, and if that wasn't bad enough at the end of each section you had to take on another larger and more dangerous 'Sentinel' than the one you faced at the halfway point!
If you succeeded in defeating the end of level boss you were refuelled and re-equipped for the next game zone, but you lost any weapons you had collected in the previous section. Bummer.
This game was highly regarded when it was released with the likes of Crash Magazine giving it an overall score of 84%. It was praised for it's detailled graphics, smooth scrolling, playability and fantastic in-game music (for a Speccy 128 anyway). A great shmup in the classic mould.
The Test Of Time:
Well you know, this game still plays pretty well and has not dated as much as some other arcade games on the Speccy. If you like vertical scrollers that are pretty tough then you won't go far wrong. Kicking in-game music too. Play this and get yourself into a 'Xen' like state.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download anything but this game for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Arcade Game (Shmup)
RELEASE DATE: 1988
RELEASED BY: Melbourne House
DEVELOPER(S): Jason Cowling, Tiny Williams, Lee Cawley, David Whittaker
Classic Aracade Action:
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games