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.
Xenon is an overhead shooter which was initially developed and released for Amiga platform and was later converted to other platforms, including DOS.
Many of you heard for Xenon 2: Megablast, famous sequel to this game which was considered to be one of the first overhead space shooters, but probably very few of you ever had the chance to play the very first one. Well, just to say that this game is very much different from its well-known successor.
As in most space shooters, you are in control of your ship and you move across the battlefield. One thing that is special in this game which differs it from other similar games in this genre is the fact that you can turn your flying ship into a land vehicle. That makes you capable of shooting land targets and also gives you the possibility to influence the movement of the battlefield. You can turn back and scroll the screen any way you want (however, that is not possible in the flying ship mode). Nice idea and also not very common in scrolling shooters.
On your way through three levels you will face various types of enemies. Some of them will be mounted to the ground (gun turrets), some will be flying around (little space crafts) and there will be some kind moving land mines too. Of course, you'll encounter some boss enemies as well which are not so hard to defeat once you memorize their moving scheme.
There are also many powerups you can collect on your way. They appear after you destroy particular enemies and can bring you various modifications such as homing missiles, increased craft speed, force field, etc.
Status screen on the left is quite well developed and it shows you complete status of your craft. There you can see your shield energy, powerups you have collected, lives and points you scored.
Graphics and sound effects
Graphics are not the best ever seen, but they would probably get a pass in the 1988. Colors are very monotonous and they lack diversity. It seems like the game paid toll to the bad converting from Amiga, since the game looks much better on that platform.
As for the sound effects, they're really bad. Just firing sounds, some explosions and some digitized speech on the start of each level, but nothing more than that. Luckily, you can turn sound effects off (look down in the ''controls'' paragraph). Music is nowhere to be found, and that's a minus in my book.
There really isn't much to memorize in controlling your spaceship as there are only buttons for movement direction, transforming from craft to land vehicle and, of course, the fire button. However, the key bindings are somewhat odd and so I'll provide them here as a little help to you.
• Q - Up • A - Down • O - Left • P - Right • Z - Spaceship/Vehicle transform • Space - Fire • F - Toggle sound effects On/Off • F3 - Pause • F10 - Level restart
It is important to note that game supports joystick control. It has been tested on Logitech's Rumblepad 2 and it works like a charm. It is much easier to play that way and it is highly recommended.
Personal opinion and conclusion
Xenon is by no means a great game. In fact, it even barely comes close to being good game, at least this DOS conversion. I have heard that other ports are way better and have greater playability, but I didn't have opportunity to check them out. Poor colors and lack of background music are serious flaws, even though gameplay can be interesting at the moments (especially the craft/vehicle transforming part). I give this game a rating of 2.5 (since it's not totally bad to get a 2, and it's not good enough for me to give it a 3).
All in all, I advise you to play this game just in case you are interested in some of the earliest of the genre and if you want to experience the prequel to great Xenon 2: Megablast. Otherwise, go play this game on Amiga or Atari ST (if you have that possibility) and don't even bother yourself with this one.
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