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Xenon attract mode screen

Xenon is a legendary top-down shoot'em up from the godlike (or should that be, Godslike?) Bitmap Brothers. Quality leaks out of every seam in this game; the music is by Dave Whittaker of (insert 1,000 game titles here) fame, the graphics and code are by the Bitmap boys, and the game exudes a palpable aroma of playability from the moment you boot it. This game should have been a coin-op, because it would have made a fortune in its era.

Xenon craft as airplane
Xenon craft as tank
The two shapes of your vehicle are shown in the screenshots at left. You move slightly slower as an airplane, but you can wreak more havoc with certain powerups (laser, for instance). The tank is immune to airborne attacks, but unfortunately is prone to running into ground-based enemies like the ladybirds and custard tarts (hey, that's what they look like!) in the screenshot at bottom left. You switch between shapes by pressing Space or holding the joystick down while pressing fire.

Unfortunately, Xenon is HARD. The first level is mild and gentle (unless you're playing it in PaCifiST, in which case the keyboard will keep sticking and you'll keep dying), but the second level is completely impossible from the very start. One of these fine days I will have to sit down with a debugger and put a trainer in my copy.

Like Shadow of the Beast, Xenon loses a point for gameplay because of its unreasonable difficulty.

Verdict: Definite must-have game, both for historical and joystick-wiggling reasons.

Ratings (five stars = maximum)








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