Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Xenon'

Rating:5 User: Digital Prawn

It is worth trying the 128K version of this excellent shoot-'em up. Originally developed by the Bitmap Brothers as a 16-bit Amiga title, the speccy port is commendable in that the core playability and look and feel of the game have been largely preserved. The main sacrifice is that the vertically scrolling playfield is completely monochromatic, but could it have been done any other way? The sound, thanks to the AY chip is virtually indistiguishable from the Atari ST version that I used to play a lot, back in the day.

The game is notable for having two player vehicles available during play, a space-plane and an armoured tank that can be switched between via the M key. The tank has full eight-way movement and the vertical scrolling stops when it is in use. The plane can only fly forwards (upwards) whilst the game relentlessly scrolls, which is exactly like a "standard" vertically scrolling shoot 'em up. Choice of vehicle is often dictated by what you are shooting at. As you fly over the huge alien construction, you will find that some enemies are one a low level (use the tank) and some are on a raised level (use the plane).

Like many shoot-em ups you have to work out a pattern, via repeated play in order to learn the layout of each level so you can be in the right place at the right time, to wipe out the waves of enemy crafts, guns and bosses, whilst hopefully avoing getting blown to bits yourself.

The powerups are really excellent and are frankly needed to survive, since this game has a well deserved reputation for being very tough. There are also two bosses per level, a mid-level boss and an end-of-level boss. Stick at the game though and eventually it is a rewarding playing experience. Although getting put back to the beginning of the level on losing a life can be a bit exasperating at times. Also, on the 16-bit version you could flick between craft by waggling the joystick really rapidly, but I think on the speccy it is 'M' key only - but that's no great loss.

Overall though it's a clever game with a technically flawless port that is still very enjoyable to play today. It has a tough learning curve that can keep a determined player occupied for a long time.