Xenon 2 - CU Amiga Review|
If anybody approaches rock celebrity status in the software world, it has to be the Bitmaps. It's something they've managed to achieve effectively in the space of three games. Speedball is their most famous, but Xenon II revives their first, a shoot 'em up which turned heads for excellent sonics and graphics when it was released over eighteen months ago.
Xenon II pursues the relentless quest for an arcade quality shoot 'em up for the Amiga and it's probably the closest yet. Like it's predecessor it's a vertical scrolling blast, with an array of nasties and a ship which, when you've bolted every available addition onto it, is awesomely destructive.
The element which strikes your senses first through is its sound. The promised mix of Tim Simenon's 'Megablast' is every bit as potent as the original cut, and, married to the sound effects, makes this a game to play with sound jacked right up.
You won't find much that's new in Xenon II. The elements that have gone into it are tried and tested. It's the execution that saves it. Progress through each of the five levels is hampered by the presence of a bewildering mass of enemy characters ranging from metallic droids, symbiotic spheres and prehistoric crustaceans. Weird ammonites and trilobites zoom in and out of the screen and attempt to ram the ship and occasionally the screen is dense with activity. To its credit you can still see what's going on though.
At the end of each level there's a large guardian waiting. Each needs to be approached and finished off in a specific way, but unlike some of the one which dwelled in the original they can at least be tackled and overcome. Inspiration for some definitely comes from R-Type with huge winding snakelike protectors which slide in and out of the guardian's tubes. Every so often you'll be able to drop into a shop and buy or sell some weaponry. You can sell off items you've picked up on the way and use the cash to add to the credits you pick up as you destroy attack waves. There's at least twenty objects, side-shots, power-ups, auto-fire, electroball and nicest of all the 'dive' add-on, which allows you to flip underneath the parallax scrolling for ten seconds.
Graphically Xenon II is superb. The central sprite is clear, well-defined and large, as are the rest of the characters in the game. The guardians are huge and imaginitive, but it's the backgrounds and the colour which really make this game brilliant to watch. This is definitely arcade quality.
There are faults to be found with Xenon II. The necessity to have so much going on at one time means the game is slow. The scroll rate is just not fast enough and it can induce an element of tedium into the game. Aslo despite its impressive graphics and sound the challeng somehow just isn't strong enough. Lack of variation might be the cause.
Despite these problems, there's little point denying that this isn't impressive stuff - it's what you bought an Amiga for. This is going to be a huge hit, and there's more.
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