If Exolon were a car, it would be a Plymouth Roadrunner. If it were a place it would be Nebraska, if it were a gun, it would be a .44 magnum. Or in other words Exoion is, without doubt, the best game to appear on the Spectrum for ages.
Having misfired fairly wildly with Gunrunner - at least that's what I thought, nobody else seemed to agree with me - Hewson has tried essentially the same formula of a lone figure, working his way from the left to the right of an alien world, annihilating everything in sight.
But this time, though, everything falls into place with outstanding precision. Every element is tuned to the perfect degree of speed, difficulty, frustration and excitement.
Though largely unimportant, the idea of the game is that you play Vitorc, a heroic warrior who must penetrate deep into the enemy defence system and blow it all to bits.
This is - as if you couldn't have guessed - a lot tougher than it sounds. Every screen has a collection of aliens which make life remarkably hard.
These usually take the shape of balloon-type things which float across the screen in fluctuating and very unpredictable sine-wave patterns. They can be wiped out pretty easily by leaping into the air and firing continually, spraying the screen with laser bolts: but since you've only got 99 shots in each magazine - and if you run out, you'll have to wait 'til you reach the next ammo dump before you can defend yourself again - that's not as good an idea as it first seems.
Larger constructions like missile pads, radar towers, missile guidance systems - each beautifully detailed and graphically big - and suchlike can't be destroyed with laserfire. Instead, you have to employ the innocent looking back-pack that Vitorc carries around. By holding down the Fire button for a couple of seconds, you'll loose off one of your rockets. It will shoot off, leaving a wonderful colourful jet trail behind it, and when it finds a target, you'll be treated to an explosion of truly stunning proportions. Pieces of exploded objects fill the screen as the tower/missile base etc is destroyed.
Exolon follows the path set by Zynaps in using colour throughout. Attribute clash, while present, is hardly noticeable, and it's so great to see things in more than two colours for a change.
There are 125 levels in all, and its going to take someone with a damned sight more skill than anyone at SU to complete it!
To help you along, though, a strong exo-skeleton can be found somewhere on one of the screens. By climbing into it, you'll be protected from most attacks and you'll also be endowed with amazing double-firepower. When you've got the suit, you become almost invincible. Crashing into aliens will still kill you, though.
At the end of every twenty levels or so. you will move to a bonus section, where points are awarded for taking the most dangerous route through the game. Also, you get to score a couple of thousand points on a quick-reaction mini-game.
You start off with ten lives, and you'll need them all if you are going to make it through.
Making it to Screen 25 was considered a serious achievement at SU and Exolon produced more squabbles over who's turn it was next than any other game so far this year!
Exolon is superb - no question. Its graphics, gameplay and sheer excitement make it a genuine joy.
Destined to go down in the annals of computer games along with Manic Miner, Lunar Jetman and Knight Lore. Superb.
Author: Rafaelle Cecco
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
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