Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39520)
Written on  :  Nov 28, 2011
Platform  :  Amiga
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars
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sets the standard for 16-bit shooters

The Good

In 1987, The Bitmap Brothers were formed, and over the years they have produced many great games, including Magic Pockets, Gods, and the first two Chaos Engine and Speedball games. Their first game was Xenon, a shoot-em-up that provided cutting-edge graphics and challenging gameplay. It was also released on the Arcadia system which wasn't very popular.

You control a pilot named Darrian who picks up a distress signal from a nebula space station and learns that human colonies close by are under attacked by the mysterious Xenite race. This story is already covered in the booklet that comes with the game, so anyone who pirated the game back then have no idea about this.

What sets the game apart from other shoot-em-ups at the time is the ability to change between a plane and a tank at any time (except when you defeat the bosses). Due to the unusual terrain in all four levels, certain enemies can only be killed using specific vehicle. The tank, for example, is only good for killing off gun turrets.

There are some nice animations. One of the guys who worked on the game managed to put a mini video clip of himself telling you what sector you are on. I'm not sure whether it is his actual voice, if he digitally-altered it when he put it in the game. Another nice animation is the opening and closing of hatches that occur when you kill off certain enemies on terrain. There is smooth scrolling throughout, and no matter how frantic the action gets the game doesn't get a speed decrease.

There are a variety of weapons you can pick up, and the game explains what these are during its attract mode. By picking up most of the weapon power-ups, you can have weapons that can very much be helpful when killing those huge aliens at the end of each sector. But it's also possible to downgrade your weapon system so you have to be careful what you pick up.

The graphics are the best seen in an Amiga game at the time. The sprites are detailed and the backgrounds look good, ranging from metallic tiles to very weird forms of undergrowth. The huge bosses are drawn nicely, and you can always tell when it is near death.

The Bad

I just don't understand why you must go through the same sector twice. There are some different terrain layouts, but it is essentially the same thing. Even the last boss you defeat appears again.

The music for the odd-numbered sectors isn't good, with the same tune for the odd-numbered sectors repeated over and over but with a different pitch. There are only two pieces of music in the game. I remember watching a demo where you could hear music from the games David Whittaker worked on. One of these music was from Xenon, and it sounded much better than this.

The Bottom Line

For their debut game, The Bitmaps have produced a good, fast, exciting, and enjoyable shoot-em-up. The ability to switch between vehicles, tank to plane or vice-versa, means that there is a strategic element involves in which you have to find out which vehicle is suitable for attacking certain types of enemies. Graphics are excellent and there are some big bosses that take quite a pounding to destroy. The music is worth listening to, if you choose to ignore the repetitiveness of it all.