Playing Xybots is the hardest I ever laughed while playing an arcade game. It is one of my all-time favorite games, I have owned a dedicated cabinet Xybots forever. But the fun is exponentially multiplied when you play with two people.
Xybots is very unique. It is a 3rd person action-oriented dungeon/maze shooter where you move around shooting robots and collecting $$$. The controls on the arcade game were unusual also, you move with the joystick, twist it left or right to turn your avatar, and shoot with the fire button. You also have a "zapper" which temporarily freezes everything on the screen. In MAME, the left and right turns are not an analog setting (like caliber 50 or Forgotten Worlds) so you simply assign "turn left" to a button and "turn right" to another. If you put the fire button in between them, it works out pretty well.
An important feature of Xybots is the map at the top middle of the screen that shows the maze, you, your enemies, energy pods, exits, etc. Since the mazes can be complex, you refer to the map often. In later levels the map is hidden until you explore it OR until you purchase an upgrade that allows it to be unveiled.
Xybots also has one of the most extensive upgrade systems ever in a game. You collect coins as you play, and at the end of each level, you are offered a large array of upgrades to make your avatar more effective. The upgrades are all useful and it takes a while to decide which to add. Also, you aren't offered all of them each time, the list of possible ones is very long. To keep track of your upgrades, there is a matrix above your viewing screen showing you each upgrade and what level it's been powered up to. Some upgrades are...faster running, more powerful shot, faster moving shot, more powerful zapper, slower energy loss, map reveal, enemies on map reveal, energy upgrade, etc.
There, are so many details, it's hard to cover them all... For instance, in addition to the % energy display, you also have a light on your back that turns yellow and then red to warn you that your energy is low. AND, in addition, there is this GREAT background heartbeat kind of sound that gets faster and more intense as your energy decreases. It's one of the best audio indicators/clues in the history of gaming.
The mazes themselves are pretty complex and drastically different from one another. Sometimes there are many diff exits. Sometimes there are hidden rooms that you can shoot your way into. There are many keys to collect to open various parts of the maze. There are also teleporting pods - some that move your thru the maze and some that warp you to higher levels.
Okay, so all that being said, I haven't mentioned why it makes me laugh so hard and what is the funnest part... Xybots is a split-screen game and is much funner when played with another player. At first you only play cooperatively and your gunfire cannot harm one another. As you progress into later levels, that changes and your fire can harm the other player. Sooner or later, regardless of your resolve to play cooperatively and kill the robots to end the level, every game descends into a mano a mano fight between the two players. Chasing and sneaking around the maze, flitting around corners and blasting one another to kingdom come. It's a lot like playing paintball at this point (and the robots are still trying to kill you, too). It's fast and fun and the game is awesome. Play it if you haven't, but make sure at some point to play it with a friend.
The 2 player fun of Xybots reminds me that my next post will be the Hall of Fame of GOTDs that are great 2 player competitive/Vs. games.