So XP8 isn't the most inspirational of names. It isn't the wailing of a female spirit warning ol impending doom a-la-Banshee. Nor is it a gathering of distant stars which appear to the observer as a cloud of dust that is Stardust. It isn't even a Seventies rock 'n' roll film with David Essex and Ringo Starr. It's XP8, or 'expiate' - to atone or make redress or make amends. The name still, slight cough, SEUCK's.
No matter. XP8 is a vertically scrolling shoot-em up, that most immediate and rewarding of game genres. And it comes forth from the county of Surrey from a team who afford themselves the name, WeatherMine Software. WeatherVane would have been nice but that's by-the-by. You've never heard of them anyway so it matters not a jot. It's quite possibly their first, ahem, byte at the cherry.
Doesn't XP8 look nice? Take a peek at some of the screenshots, (oh, you have already?) screenshots which, incidentally, do little justice to the pristine quality of the visuals. You really do wow at the ray traced spacecraft upon loading the first of five, huge levels. Obviously, you're looking at an AGA game, here.
It's fairly obvious where the inspiration for the game has come from, the writers hint as much in their letter to the magazine. Core Design's fabulous Banshee and the splendid Amiga Format gold winning Super Stardust from Team 17 (AF64 90%). If you've never played Banshee, I urge you to go get hold of a copy. It's edifying fare enrobed with many excellent levels of blast-em action and embracing many neat graphical touches. Witness the women pushing prams across streets as you bomb the town, the sewage pumping from pipes into the harbour. Deft, indeed. It also has a simultaneous two player option which affords the opportunity for friends to fight like mad for the onscreen power-ups.
XP8 is much the same in format as Banshee, though in terms of visual presentation, it nods slightly in the direction of Super Stardust, 'asteroids for the nineties', as folk were wont to call it a couple of years back. XP8 is sot in space and like its 'asteroids-ian' counterpart, it's blessed with jaw lowering rendered ships and gorgeous explosions.
You're informed at the light of day what the mission objective is, then you dab the fire button and launch your ship into a barrage of objects. Like Banshee, when you eliminate turrets, towers, meteors and enemy craft so power-ups appear which boost your weapons and health and stuff. You zig zag across the screen avoiding buildings and blasting everything in sight. XP8 is certainly no original. There really isn't much here that you won't have seen before but like predecessors Banshee and Super Stardust (OK, so SS has the rather splendid tunnel sequences), it's the quality of the execution that counts.
Many lengths have obviously been swam to ensure that the 'just so' factor is present throughout. With 128 colours and the caboodle moving at 50 frames per second, graphically the words 'super' and 'smooth' can be applied with ease.
There are 50 (count them, as they say) different rendered enemy craft and up to eight weapons to collect -each with five power increases. It's best played with a joypad where you can automatically change weapon without recourse to the keyboard. Cleverly, the programmers have included not only a simultaneous two-player option, but the devils have also gone and given us an option to morph the ships to give you full-on, demolish-everything-in-sight firepower. Both ships have to be on-screen at the same time but the actual playing area extends about 50 per cent of the screen each way. Much like Banshee the two-player option is a gas - you often completely forget which ship is yours because of the ensuing mayhem.
Considering WeatherMine are a , small, in-yer-bedroom type outfit, XP8 is an incredibly slick game. Any of the major players would surely have been more than pleased to release this? Such dedication, such attention to detail, such panache. XP8 is more than worthy of a download. You won't see too much stuff that you haven't seen before but it's visually stunning and a blast. We like.
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