Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Game of the Day - Xenon

No, it's not the classic pinball machine (although that is awesome also) - it's a combo shooter that was the first game coded by the famed Bitmap Brothers (although published by Arcadia).

Xenon is a frantic, frenetic, (insert next "fr" word here) vertically scrolling shooter with lots of stuff going on and one big, important feature.  At any time you can change your ship from a ground-based futuristic tank to an air-based plane.  You hit the button and it transforms in a second.  The distinction between the two is very meaningful.  The tank can shoot it any direction (always in the direction it's facing) like an omni-shooter and the plane only shoots forward like any other air-based vert shooter.

The problem is, that air and ground-based enemies are co-mingled and interspersed the whole way, so you are either constantly changing forms, or just flying by or avoiding half the targets.  When you are in the plane, you can fly anywhere but your bullets don't take out all the ground enemies and when you are in the tank, you have to go around all kinds of obstacles in the futuristic (metallic?) terrain.

There are also power-ups galore.  I don't even know what they all are yet.  You shoot certain enemies (especially cannons and turrets) and they turn into different letters.  Collect those letters (in the proper vehicle) and your power-up corresponds to the letter you procured.  Again, ground-based power-ups (that were released by enemies on the ground) can only be picked up by the tank, the plane will fly right over.

Most importantly, the gameplay is great.  The tank scoots around feverishly and reacts quickly to the controls.  The enemies are plentiful and fun to watch.  Power-ups like satellites add a lot to the already interesting strategy.

The graphics are a little spartan/minimalistic, but very nice and sharp and only enhance the game.  One little complaint, a large portion of the right side of the screen is taken up by a quasi-communication center (worthless) and other info.  It's too much, they could have used some of that real estate to make the playfield bigger.  But, it's a small complaint and doesn't mean much in such a great game.

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