Aliens have taken over the three moons orbiting your home planet, and your mission is to blow them up (not just the aliens, but the entire moons!).
Each moon contains four levels incorporating several gameplay modes and perspectives:
Level 1 is a first-person 3D space flight simulation, as the player pilots a ship over the moon's surface looking for the entrance to a cave.
Level 2 is a side-view scrolling shooter in which the player explores the cave in search of bombs.
Level 3 is similar to level 2, except it takes place underwater.
Level 4 is the final one; it is a top-down grid-based maze shooter, as the player tries to plant the bombs and escape before they explode.
Xenocide is an interesting combination of 3D first person shooter, 2D platforming and also 3rd person top-down gameplay. While the game is not groundbreaking in any one of the styles of gameplay it uses, it is the combination that makes the game interesting and keeps the player on their toes.
The story isn't really important in playing the game but I will give it to you anyway. Aliens have attacked your home planet and intend to have the whole planet's population for lunch, literally. The aliens have inhabited each of the three moons that orbit your planet and are using them as bases from which to launch attacks and as food harvesting plants that process the "meat" they bring up from the planet. It's up to you to destroy the bases on each of the moons before the aliens' appetite wipes out the planet's population.
The game consists of three stages (one for each moon) each with four levels. The first level of each stage requires steering a hovercraft through windshield-splattering giant alien bugs and damaging rock formations in order to reach a docking platform. You can use your hovercraft's limited weapons to blast whatever gets in your way. Of course you will have only a certain amount of fuel to complete the job.
When you reach the docking bay at the end of level one you are transported to an underground cave. The cave level is the first of two platform side-scrolling shooter levels. In the cave the objective is to find the five bombs that are going to be needed to destroy the moon when you finally make it to the bio-lab in level four. Some of the bombs are fairly well hidden and, of course, there are plenty of creatures and booby traps that will hinder your progress. You will use a jetpack to fly around the cave and will be armed with a laser and some grenades. If your jetpack runs out of fuel you die. There are a small number of refueling stations situated throughout the cave where you can not only refuel but also replenish your stock of ammo.
When you have found all five bombs in the cave you must then find the transporter pad that will take you to the underground lake that lies before the entrance to the bio-lab. The lakes are crawling with creatures and full of traps. Your oxygen tanks cannot run out of air or you will die. Again you are armed with laser and grenades. The objective is to find the entrance to the bio lab but there are many locked barriers in the way. You must find the keys to the barriers. Just as in the cave, there are stations where you can refill your oxygen tanks and replenish your ammo.
In level four you have reached the lab and must find your way through a maze of alien inhabited rooms to plant the bombs that will destroy the moon. Level four is where the game switches from the platform mode into the top down mode. You must find your way through the rooms to locate the predetermined bomb placement sites and plant the bombs. When all five bombs are planted a warning alarm will trigger. You have a limited amount of time to reach the transporter device, turn it on and stand on the pad before the moon explodes.
Two new weapons are introduced in level four; land mines and the flame thrower. Also, a not-so-small twist to the standard laser weapon comes into play. It seems the walls of the bio-lab are made of some reflective material because the laser shots ricochet off the walls and the doors and are just as deadly for you when they do. Forgetting that, I killed myself many times before I got the hang of it. It also makes for some interesting possibilities in shooting around corners.
There you have it. Three stages with four levels each. Of course each corresponding level gets progressively more difficult in each successive stage. You start each stage with three lives. Some levels will contain an extra life that can be picked up if found.
Xenocide has no save feature but the game will automatically save itself when a moon is destroyed. What that means is that the player must replay each stage from the beginning until they reach the objective of destroying the moon. Following that, when the "continue game" option is selected, the game begins at the first stage for which the moon has not been destroyed. Important note: If the "New Game" option is taken the saved game will be erased. You can only have one game active at any one time (unless you make a copy of the game folder).
Xenocide mixes up the styles of gameplay well enough to keep the game from getting boring. The difficulty level is reasonable; bringing the player from a fairly easy stage one to a challenging stage three. The last level in each stage was well designed and a great way to finish off the objective of that stage of the game. The game developers made a good choice in supplying a map to the bio-lab in stage one but not for stage two and three. That gives the player an introduction to the concept of the level design and then increases the level difficulty and game length by drawing on the players mapping skills and memory. Some players may get frustrated with having to restart a stage many times before the moon is destroyed and the next save game point is reached. I'm going to give Xenocide a rating of three and a recommendation to all those who have enjoyed the Thexder/Mega Man style of games or the Gauntlet/DarkSpyre style. Different levels of Xenocide will bear some resemblance to each of those games.
When using the keyboard during the game you will want to use the number pad (at least some of the time) to steer yourself. The directional arrows work fine for up/down and left/right but there are a few times in the game where you must move yourself diagonally to proceed or to retrieve an important item. That can only be achieved with the 1,3,7,9 keys on the number pad.
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