by David Whittaker, Jason Cowling, Lee Cawley, Tiny Williams, Paul Kidby
Melbourne House
Sinclair User Issue 83, Feb 1989   page(s) 26,27

And as the four moons of Kiri eclipsed themselves, Commander Skybuckski of the 4th Space Commandos Platoon put on his oxy-helmet and boarded his X-tie-wingcruiser and set off to do battle with evil wherever it may be found.

Got that? Well, that's the sort of atmosphere you need to imagine for playing Xenon: all high-tech gleaming superstructures and cold-blooded alien fighter-pilo's. A kind of Very Last Starfighter.

If you've got a mate with an ST, he's probably been boring you stupid with stories of how fab Xenon is on his machine. Well, now it's payback time 'cos the Spec version is every bit as good.

It's a top-bottom progressive shoot-out (like so many others) but you can alternate between a flying ship and a hover-craft thing, allowing you to combat airborne aliens and gun installations and ground-based trundley-aliens respectively.

For the most part, it's best to stay in the air, since you can move about more quickly and you won't be hampered by the bugs on the ground. As you make your way up through the level, the most common adversaries are rotating gun-turrets which continually fire in your direction. You have to blow these away pretty swiftly if you're going to get anywhere.

Without too much trouble you'll be able to make your way to the end of the level, only to face - ark? - the big beastie!

You can only combat BB in your hovercraft and so your movement speed is greatly restricted. He moves in a set pattern around the screen - to one side and down, to the other side and down, then back to the middle and down. He fires batches of four or five shots while descending upon you. You encounter this bad guy twice on each level, once at about half-way through and once at the end. He gets tougher and faster and fires more each time. By his visitation on Level Three, it's real terror-time.

Personally, and for the little it's worth. I think these boys are far too hard. After working your way through a tricky and frenetic level, to have your energy mercilessly sapped by an apparently invincible foe is more than a little disheartening. Since it's not possible to use any weapons you may have picked up along the way, I think these stages are simply too tough.

Extra weapons? Yes indeed. After taking out a pack of aliens (either walkers or flyers) a bonus token usually appears. They'll give you extra fuel or a special invincibility weapon in the first stages. From sector two onwards there are more exciting things to collect. You can get multiple direction cannon, firing out in eight tangents and there's an armoured sphere which follows your ship, firing when you fire and demolishing the bad guys.

On top of all this you can exchange your rapid-fire machine-gun for a laser beam which continues to travel even after blowing away a bad guy.

The graphics are fantastic. Although there was no way you could have hoped the bas-relief landscapes could have been copied from the ST original, it still looks very high-tech and shiny. It's similar to the Uridium style. Although the aliens are actually quite small and maybe not that impressive at first, they're all animated and scuttle around in interesting movement patterns. The scroll is smooth, but not flawless. When an alien buys it, he blows up in a plume of nuke-smoke - great!

Further into the game you'll come across gun emplacements hidden in the walls and maze-like structures which you have to negotiate with a great deal of care.

Xenon just gels better and better. Apart from the end-of-level monsters which are too hard! (Shut up about that and tell them about the sound - GT) The 128K sound has to be heard to be believed. There's continual music playing, astoundingly growly sound effect and explosions and even a new tune when you come to the end of level monster - which is too hard (Aaaarh! - GT).

Even if you're thoroughly hacked off with space shoot-outs, Xenon is a must-buy game. Not only is it a very faithful conversion, but all the factors still work well on the Spec. Marvellous.

Label: Melbourne House
Author: Lothlorien
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

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Graphics: 89%
Sound: 90%
Playability: 80%
Lastability: 85%
Overall: 90%

Summary: Amazing shoot-out classic! Action! Music! Aliens! Kwoar!

Award: Sinclair User Classic

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 133, Mar 1993   page(s) 18


Look, over there, through that swirling cloud of strange mist... No, it can't be, but it is! SU's guide to the game-greats of yester-year. Yes indeedy there have been some good 'uns on the market in the last few years so now's the time to start polishing up on your collection if you've missed out on any of these fabbo titles. Mark Patterson, who's been in the business since before he was born and who has written not just for SU but also for Amiga, ST, PC and Console mages gives us an extra critical run down of the best...

Label: Virgin
Memory: 48K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Mark Patterson

The Bitmaps' first shoot 'em up is an awesome vertically scrolling affair. You control a rock-hard ground-attack tank which, at the flick of a button, turns into an even harder space-craft Unbelievable it may be but each vehicle has to be employed at certain times during the game, and it's down to you to work out when is best to change.

This game is tough, with fuel limits to keep track of. power-ups to collect and some stupendously powerful bosses to deal with. A classic game.

Overall: 90%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 107, Jan 1991   page(s) 55

Label: Virgin
Price: £2.99 Cass 48K
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

An SU Classic on its first appearance, Xenon continues to hold its head, its tentacles and indeed its entire slimy body high in the air despite many efforts to outdo it by competitors. When Xenon appeared on 16-bit machines (and for that matter as a coin-op), it was widely assumed it wouldn't be possible to transfer its graphic polish and busy gameplay to 8-bit machines.

Well, it was almost true - the Commodore 64 version was plop! But, to give you even more of a reason to jubilate, the Spectrum version was fab, and is still well worth seeking out. It's like this; vertical scroller, pick-up-weapons, multi-form ship, hit M to change from an eight-directional land-crawling tank to a high-flying aircraft. On the 16-bit versions you did this by wiggling the joystick, and it's a pity you can't do this on the Spectrum, because having to hit key M while you're fighting off deathtanks is a wee bit distracting. You wiggle your way between rotating gun placements, fly over metallic wails and fight off flights of alien ships, but at the middle and end of each level there's a stinking challenge in the form of a giant land-crawler which has to be hit in the mouth hundreds of times before you see it off. These nasties are so difficult that you may never get through Xenon without cheating, so depending on your persistence this could be a good investment or frustrating stinker. Extra weapons like armour, homing missiles, lasers, side lasers, wing weapons and rotating balls (pardon?), as well as extra fuel, can be picked up by collecting power puts from clobbered craft. With sixteen zones to complete, divided into four levels. Xenon should keep you occupied until at least Christmas 2016, so slither out and buy it at once.

Graphics: 83%
Sound: 67%
Playability: 89%
Lastability: 93%
Overall: 90%

Summary: Blinking Flip! We said it then, and we'll say it again; this is a classic. Buy it or die!

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 110, Apr 1991   page(s) 34,35

Label: Mastertronic Plus
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £2.99
Program By: Bitmap Brothers
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

We said it before and we'll say it again now - Xenon IS a classic shoot-'em-up, well worth its SU Classic status, and though it has now been compiled, cover-mounted and collated almost out of existence, if there's anyone left who doesn't have it, then they must have taken an overdose of penicillin 'cos it's the most contagious game in existence, and they should catch it this time around.

Great 128K music and sound effects accompany this vertically-scrolling fight-feast, as you steer a two-mode fighter over metallic landscapes. Switching from ground-attack to airborne modes using the space-bar, you shoot anything that moves as you flit freely around the smooth-scrolling screen.

There are four sectors, each divided into four zones, and each decked out with rotating gun turrets, ladybird-like ground craft, laser emplacements, and, at the end of each level, an enormous sentinel. These are not your everyday Mothercare bouncers - they're terrifically hard to kill, and you won't have the help of your special weapons such as wing-shooters, side-shooters, armour, lasers, homing missiles and revolving balls, which you collect along the way by picking up icons.

Bar displays show your fuel level, speed and energy status, but despite the claims that this is the 'thinking man shoot-'em-up', you can turn your brain off and just use your reflex shooting skills. Reach out with your feelings and blast em to bits.

Blast, maim, splaa-booom! I even broke two fingernails in my first game and still thought it was worth the suffering. A classic blast from the past.

Graphics: 91%
Sound: 92%
Playability: 90%
Lastability: 90%
Overall: 91%

Summary: Miss this and you might as well hand in your "Junior Space Warrior" badge. A shoot-'em-up classic.

Award: Sinclair User Best Budget

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 119, Jan 1992   page(s) 40

Label: Tronix
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter

King of the crawling armoured thingies, Xenon has been popular for a long time and although it may have been put to one side at this stage in some people's collections, it will certainly never be forgotten.

A true monster bash, Xenon involves devastating all comers in a large, vertically scrolling world with a powerful transformer tank capable of transmuting from hell on wheels to hell on wings, taking to the skies and picking off targets from above.

Playability is incredible but although it's Xenon's strongest point, it is also it's weakest 'cos it can actually be too difficult to finish the game without a cheat. However, it contains so much action that it doesn't really get frustrating... you can literally spend hours at the Xenon and not notice the time fly by.

Graphics are detailed but not over stunning and the sound is really rather good but as you destroy the seemingly infinite string of gun emplacements, battle tanks and alien ships in the demon world of Xenon you'll wonder why you haven't already fallen for this superb shoot 'em up.

ALAN: What a blast! One of the first of the Bitmaps' new age games, Xenon promises to thrill.

Overall: 88%

Summary: Xenon still captures my imagination every time I play it. The graphics look good if a little basic by today's standards but it's a game that demands every ounce of concentration.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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