aka: Kelly X
Moby ID: 1553
DOS Specs

Description official descriptions

In this game the player assumes the role of a space pilot named Darrian. One day, he receives a report from a nebula space station, from which he learns that nearby human colonies have been attacked by mysterious aliens known as Xenites. Darrian wastes no time, and sets off to protect the humans and stop the aliens.

Xenon is an overhead shooter, in which the player controls a vehicle that is able to transform into a tank or a plane. The transformation can be usually performed by player at any time, to combat particular enemies; however, during some sequences the player is forced to use a specific type of vehicle. During the tank gameplay, the player controls the movement of the playfield (up or down) by simply moving the tank in the direction of choice.

The game features a 3D playfield (some enemies, for example, will be mounted on hills of sort, where the tank can't shoot them). To combat these, the player needs to transform its tank into a plane. The game then switches to the more familiar gameplay style as seen in other vertically scrolling shooters. The plane has to transform back into a tank again to combat most ground units. Upgrades can be taken from destroyed enemies.

Groups +


Credits (DOS version)

5 People

Coded by
Graphics by
Audio by
Conversion by
  • Lothlorien



Average score: 77% (based on 22 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 67 ratings with 4 reviews)

Another unworthy conversion

The Good
When Xenon was first released, it was billed as a coin-op for your home. Of course, that home had to have an Amiga (or worst case: an ST) installed. It had nice graphics, one of Dave Whittaker's better soundtracks and some 16-bit gimmicks such as sampled sound and video.

The concept of transforming between plane and tank is also inventive, and something I've not seen even in real arcade games.

The Bad
The MSX could handle a game like this. It couldn't handle all the bells and whistles of the 16-bit versions, but look at a game like Zanac to see how arcade-like gameplay can be implemented even on the MSX1 if only the programmer cares enough.

What the buyer is presented with, is instead another Spectrum port. Only slower. The Speccy has much faster access to video memory than the MSX, but lacks sprites. Here is another game with slow monochrome graphics where you lose track of your monochrome ship (why didn't they use sprites?) in all the black and white "action". It is not worth the loading time, and it is an insult towards the hardware it is running on. The only saving grace is the soundtrack, which is just as good as on the Amiga and ST.

The Bottom Line
Xenon is an obscure game, dwarfed by its famous follow-up. It has not aged very well, but it is nevertheless an interesting piece of Amiga history. On the MSX1, it is an interesting piece in the long history of bad conversions.

MSX · by Игги Друге (46653) · 2007

Bad port of an ST classic

The Good
Xenon is a simple overhead shooter with some nice ideas - it's possible to turn into a flying ship to fly above most enemies and destroy those on hills. Presentation-wise it's quite good as well - there's sampled speech before every level, and things like the status panel appear to be quite well thought out.

The Bad
There's no plot to speak of (make up your own!). The game seems to have suffered somewhat in the conversion from the ST. The colour palette is somewhat cut down (which is odd - I'm sure the original palette would fit in 64 colours). The music is totally absent, and the sound effects are even worse than the original.

The game just doesn't feel right, moving too fast, and just not really playing very well, which is a shame, since the original is brilliant.

Thankfully the PC version appears to be obscure, whereas the ST one is very widespread.

The Bottom Line
Go play the ST version. It's brilliant.

DOS · by seymour butz (18) · 2002

Not even remotely as good as its successor.

The Good
Xenon is just not really a very good game. It's wasn't even close in popularity to its magnificent successor, and is quite terrible in comparison.

Being a typical overhead shooter Xenon is quite fun at first, but it dwindles soon enough. Only genuinely good thing about it is its decent controls (if not terribly good).

The Bad
However, Xenon fails when it comes to both graphics and sound. Visually the game is, to say the least, less than appealing. It's blue all over, and the enemies do not contrast well with the background. It's so lacking in colour that you won't really realize you're moving through the game - everything just looks the same.

Musically it's not really better - plain and simple sound effects don't add a great deal to the atmosphere, and the complete lack of background music is annoying as hell. Xenon's level design isn't terribly good either, for that matter.

The Bottom Line
This game just goes to show that a sequel is not always inferiour.

DOS · by Tomer Gabel (4536) · 2000

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


Digitized actor

The digitized face that exclaimed "Level One" at the beginning of the game (stunning for its time) was non other than Bitmap Brother Eric Matthews. (He later confessed that he altered the video manually to give himself a better haircut!)


The first game by The Bitmap Brothers, released in January 1988, Xenon was the first product that effectively showed how the 16 bit computers were capable of offering the game player a more challenging gaming experience. Through its combination of excellent graphics and a great sound track, Xenon set the standard for 16 bit games. After extensive coverage on ITV’s ‘Get Fresh’ it made history as the first ever Amiga game to enter the UK Top 40.

PC version

The PC version of the game suffered from having no music, since neither the Adlib (late 1988) nor Sound Blaster (1989) cards had been released at the time the game was finished. And until the Sound Blaster came out a year later there was no way of getting decent sound effects on the PC other than through the speaker beeps. The "Sector One" voice playback that it did have had to occur when nothing else was moving onscreen since it took a lot of fiddling with the 1-bit speaker output and couldn't afford any more time spent elsewhere. It was also stuck with the standard 16-colour EGA palette, which is why the colours looked off. VGA had been released a year earlier, but only on the original IBM machines and clone cards weren't yet widely available.

Working title

The game was intended to be named "Kelly X", which was derived from the programmer Steve Kelly's name. But after a final version was leaked by someone at the publisher Mastertronic to crackers in September 1987, the final game was renamed to Xenon for the release in January 1988.


  • ACE
    • October 1988 (issue #13) - Included in the Top-100 list of 1987/1988 (editorial staff selection)

Information also contributed by Dalroi and Stillman


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  • MobyGames ID: 1553
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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history! If your contribution is approved, you will earn points and be credited as a contributor.

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tomer Gabel.

Commodore 64 added by Quapil. Amiga, Atari ST added by seymour butz. Antstream added by firefang9212. Arcade, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum added by Kabushi. MSX added by Martin Smith. BlackBerry added by MAT.

Additional contributors: Apogee IV, Johnny "ThunderPeel2001" Walker, Jo ST.

Game added June 5, 2000. Last modified May 1, 2024.