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Melbourne House
1988
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
None

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26,27
Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

And as the four moons of Kiri eclipsed themselves, Commander Skybuckski of the 4th Space Commandos Platoon put on his oxy-helmet and boarded his X-tie-wingcruiser and set off to do battle with evil wherever it may be found.

Got that? Well, that's the sort of atmosphere you need to imagine for playing Xenon: all high-tech gleaming superstructures and cold-blooded alien fighter-pilo's. A kind of Very Last Starfighter.

If you've got a mate with an ST, he's probably been boring you stupid with stories of how fab Xenon is on his machine. Well, now it's payback time 'cos the Spec version is every bit as good.

It's a top-bottom progressive shoot-out (like so many others) but you can alternate between a flying ship and a hover-craft thing, allowing you to combat airborne aliens and gun installations and ground-based trundley-aliens respectively.

For the most part, it's best to stay in the air, since you can move about more quickly and you won't be hampered by the bugs on the ground. As you make your way up through the level, the most common adversaries are rotating gun-turrets which continually fire in your direction. You have to blow these away pretty swiftly if you're going to get anywhere.

Without too much trouble you'll be able to make your way to the end of the level, only to face - ark? - the big beastie!

You can only combat BB in your hovercraft and so your movement speed is greatly restricted. He moves in a set pattern around the screen - to one side and down, to the other side and down, then back to the middle and down. He fires batches of four or five shots while descending upon you. You encounter this bad guy twice on each level, once at about half-way through and once at the end. He gets tougher and faster and fires more each time. By his visitation on Level Three, it's real terror-time.

Personally, and for the little it's worth. I think these boys are far too hard. After working your way through a tricky and frenetic level, to have your energy mercilessly sapped by an apparently invincible foe is more than a little disheartening. Since it's not possible to use any weapons you may have picked up along the way, I think these stages are simply too tough.

Extra weapons? Yes indeed. After taking out a pack of aliens (either walkers or flyers) a bonus token usually appears. They'll give you extra fuel or a special invincibility weapon in the first stages. From sector two onwards there are more exciting things to collect. You can get multiple direction cannon, firing out in eight tangents and there's an armoured sphere which follows your ship, firing when you fire and demolishing the bad guys.

On top of all this you can exchange your rapid-fire machine-gun for a laser beam which continues to travel even after blowing away a bad guy.

The graphics are fantastic. Although there was no way you could have hoped the bas-relief landscapes could have been copied from the ST original, it still looks very high-tech and shiny. It's similar to the Uridium style. Although the aliens are actually quite small and maybe not that impressive at first, they're all animated and scuttle around in interesting movement patterns. The scroll is smooth, but not flawless. When an alien buys it, he blows up in a plume of nuke-smoke - great!

Further into the game you'll come across gun emplacements hidden in the walls and maze-like structures which you have to negotiate with a great deal of care.

Xenon just gels better and better. Apart from the end-of-level monsters which are too hard! (Shut up about that and tell them about the sound - GT) The 128K sound has to be heard to be believed. There's continual music playing, astoundingly growly sound effect and explosions and even a new tune when you come to the end of level monster - which is too hard (Aaaarh! - GT).

Even if you're thoroughly hacked off with space shoot-outs, Xenon is a must-buy game. Not only is it a very faithful conversion, but all the factors still work well on the Spec. Marvellous.

Label: Melbourne House
Author: Lothlorien
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Amazing shoot-out classic! Action! Music! Aliens! Kwoar!

89%
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90%

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HINTS AND TIPS

Take time to work out which aliens leave behind bonus tokens.

Avoid changing to groundbased combat if you're not going to get a token at the end of it. It's unlikely that you'll get out with enough energy to complete the level.

Anticipate the aliens' movements and shoot the last one from each set only if it's in the clear - if you try to get a token, you don't want to have to fly into a warzone to get it.

Start in the middle of the screen - aliens come from the top and the bottom. Don't get caught unawares!

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Beating that Alien! This is his movement pattern.

Follow the position notes in order to stay safe. Go to each position in turn, and wait until the bad guy has fired his shots before moving to the next place - he can only fire one batch at a time.