Get fresh with aliens...
Producer: Melbourne House
Trendy Blasting: £7.95
Author: Jason Cowling (Lothlorien), music adapted by Tiny Williams from a ditty by David Whittaker
Life is so strange at times. There I was watching Saturday morning TV - Get Stale or something, and suddenly this megagame called Xenon came on. Strange name for a game, I thought, sounds like a trendy disco (ie not Nick's).
So what's strange, you ask. Well, one moment I was sitting on the sofa, scoffing beans on toast. Then, before you could say 'Gaz Top needs a haircut' (or 'Wet Wet Wet video' -Ed), I was at the controls of a jet fighter.
The in-built radio crackled into life. 'You've been given a dangerous mission'said a familiar voice - it was Mike Smith! 'Okay Smiffy, what've I got to do, find out what a Production Manager does?' I anxiously enquired.
'No, not quite that bad,' replied Smiffy. 'You'll have to fly through four vertically-scrolling, alien-infested levels.'
Sounds familiar, I thought.
'There are many different types of enemy,' continued Smiffy, 'some in the air and some on the ground. To shoot ground-based aliens you can transform your fighter into a hover-ship. But whatever form you're in, getting hit by enemies or their bullets reduces your fuel - run out and you're dead. Then there are the really large aliens - two in each level - which must be shot dozens of times to be destroyed.'
'But if this mission is so tough, why have I only got a poxy little gun?'
'Luckily for you, when some aliens are shot, they leave behind extra weapons and fuel capsules. Easy peasy. See you fora drink later, and just one little tip - don't try landing near any trees.'
So, after saying a quick prayer to the PM (Production Manager), zoomed over the smooth-scrolling landscape. Well-drawn alien ships darted around the screen, and it took a lot of skill to reach the really large motherships. Unfortunately, these took a long time to destroy, and interrupted the otherwise enjoyable action. But most amazing was the 128K sound-much better than Radio 1. What a great, challenging shoot-'em-up.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: smooth-scrolling shaded landscape
Sound: superb in-game 128K tune and some good blasting effects
Options: definable keys
Xenon is a jolly good blast if I was going to be an overcritical pain (some would say that's nothing new) then I could say lots of nasty things about unoriginality. Probably the single most impressive feature is the excellent 128K sound - there's a really thumping tune which isn't interrupted at all by gunfire FX. Graphics are almost as impressive, monochromatic, but really well-detailed and scrolling incredibly smoothly even with lots of onscreen action and the aforementioned mass of musical magnificence (phew!). All in all, a worthy buy; a tape containing several trillion years of alien killing fun.
There is no doubt that Xenon is a quality product, the graphics are very good and the 128K tune is amazingly close to the ST's. Gameplay isn't bad either, although the switching between aircraft and hover-ship doesn't add that much to the shoot-'em-up genre. So why isn't it a Smash? The main problem is the game's toughness, Level Three in particular is absolutely maddening, and killing the big aliens takes ages. All the levels look great, though, and once multiloaded in you can play a level as often as you want without going back to Level One. If you fancy a really hard challenge this is probably what you need.
Manic vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up with loads of levels and billions of attackers. Collect power pills to improve your ship's capabilities. Great presentation but the gameplay's looking a bit old now.
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