I was thinking of making this the first review without introduction, but I couldn't help myself. Does it actually need an introduction? Probably not. I think every shoot 'em up fan has played Xenon. But anyway, here is a brief history on the game.
Xenon was the first release by the great Bitmap Brothers. It was the first game that really showed what could be done with the 16-bit machines, and it launched the Bitmaps as a quality development team, delivering fantastic graphics and sound.
By the time of its release in 1988, the ST already had a great shoot 'em up, "Goldrunner". But Xenon was something completely different, adding more variety to the genre. And even though this piece of gaming software is almost 15 years old, it can easily be considered among the best of its type! When you load up the game you soon notice why this release stormed up the UK game Top 40 at the time!
Even though this was the Bitmaps debut game, they immediately hit the jackpot! Very slick and stylish graphics! The metallic look of the first level is just amazing. This is pure Bitmap quality as we are used to see from them.
A superb soundtrack by the master himself (Whittaker). This one will stick with you forever. I think it's one of the best known game tunes in history. The game also features some sampled voices and other cool shooting effects. Great stuff.
It might be a bit weird to write a review of this game, since I haven't even seen half of it. Too bad, cause I've been playing this one all my life. It was one of the first I ever got on the ST. Still, I'm gonna tell you what I've seen of it so far.
Xenon is not just your ordinary vertical shooter, this one has some great original features to it. You have the option of driving around in a slow, armoured vehicle or to fly in an (almost equally slow) fighter. And you can switch between these two craft during gameplay by pressing the space button. This feature adds a lot to the gameplay!
The slow tank is used to shoot the squirreling ground targets. This mode is actually more difficult than the aircraft mode, in which you can fly straight over certain enemies, turrets or buildings without getting trapped! Why would you use the tank then, you ask? well, some of those crawling baddies leave some nice bonus features behind when they are killed, and this can only be done with the tank, so its up to you!
Keep in mind that Xenon is not a fast paced shooter like Goldrunner, this one is a lot slower. In tank mode you can actually decide at which speed you want to go (to a certain level). And it's also possible to go in the opposite direction whenever you feel like it, adding even more freedom to the gameplay! These are other advantages over the Aircraft mode!
Bonus items are represented by a letter. If you manage to grab one, you might be so lucky to upgrade your craft with extra firepower, laser cannons, sideshots, heat-seekers and more. As in the sequel, there are boss enemies to overcome! Every level in this game is divided into two sectors, and the end of each sector is guarded by such a boss creature. Xenon features 4 different levels in total.
Controls are very good. You control the craft using the joystick, and the spacebar to morph into one of the two crafts. That's all there is to it! The problem with this game is that the ST version is way too hard, in my opinion.
Once I completed the first level, I'm able to play for just a few seconds in level two before getting killed. This level is more of the traditional shoot' em up style as you're not able to change to tank mode. But the screen is just infested with enemy activity. It might just be me, but I always found this to be extremely frustrating, as I would have loved to see more of this game. The second level looked promising...
Xenon can easily be considered as the mother of the 16-bit shooters. It looks beautiful, it sounds cool and it plays great in the first level. After that, all hell breaks lose and the game starts to become unplayable for me. It's just extremely difficult. Don't let that ruin it though, I'm sure it's passable with practice. So this one is recommended for the hardcore shooters among us who can handle the amount of frustration!
- Graphics: 9
- Sound: 8
- Gameplay: 6
- Overall: 7
The only Bitmap Brothers game released by
The announcer of the different sectors use to scare the hell out of me when I was a little boy...
Total mayhem! Air and ground targets. No matter which craft you chose, you're never safe!
Some extra firepower has been added to your tank. Let's kill 'em all!
Some bonus items seem to make you unbeatable. Like this one, with heat seeking missiles and bullets everywhere. Too bad it only lasts a few seconds...
We finally managed to upgrade to lasers! The sound effect is very cool BTW...
The first boss creature you'll encounter. Just try and hit him in the mouth till his nose starts to glow...Sounds weird, he?
This is sector 2 - things start to heat up here!
Laser side shots! Eat this, scumm!