THE earth, which we all know and love and waste vast quantities of paper on talking about trying to save, is in a bit of a mess. And it's not really its fault either, because external forces are causing the problem.
First it was the Martian virus, then it was the satellites vanishing, and now most of the orbiting space stations have gone quiet. From some preliminary scanning it seems that the Xenos have taken over all the bases, killing the crews.
These Xenos are repulsive. Not merely are they less than pretty, but they'll do anything in their power to get rid of anyone who is trying to get rid of them. A motley crew of mercenaries, old soldiers and psychopaths has been formed to remove the menace, but only two members of the team can be on a base at any one time. This means two players can play simultaneously, each using half of a split screen.
There are five types of Xenos, all of them less than pleasant, all of them the same traditional shade of green. They each cause a health drain to your character, but most of them can be got rid of with one sort of weapon or another.
Different weapons and useful items are scattered about on the floor. Some are needed to get past security systems, which have gone a little doolally with the alien invasion. There isn't any real variety in a game like Xenophobe.
Every mission looks roughly the same and there aren't any interludes where you might be able to have a slight rest or gain extra bonus points.
Basically, from start to finish it is one of the most frantic blasting games ever to appear in the arcades. There is never any time to think what you're doing and eventually the whole thing becomes automatic. There isn't the time to get bored - there's too much to do - but the competitive and cooperative element in two-player mode is frequently the only thing that keeps a game going.
Xenophobe does try, however. There's something kind of cute about the Xenos. The whole thing seems to have the menace of a marauding gerbil.
Animation is simple, but smooth. There's a cartoony air to the game. But everything's a bit small. Not merely is there a fairly large and admittedly well done Xenophobe banner at the top of the screen, but the bottom bit of the screen isn't used at all, so each player is stuck with a long strip about 80 pixels high.
In a one-player game the lower strip is blank, so only about a third of the screen is used. Mind you, the graphics are too well done of this to be YASTP.
The tunes are good. MicroStyle includes a tape of the real arcade machine's sound, and they're pretty close.
What does worry me, though, is the statement that Xenophobe embodies all that is best in MicroStyle games. If this is true, we could be looking for some quite gifted ordinariness.
Fairly good, but cigar-wise it's out of the running.