Two heads is better than one

Xenophobe logo

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.

Xenophobe logo

MICROSTYLE £24.99 * Joystick

A bit of a shock to the system this: MicroProse, renowned for their simulations (and buying other companies!) have turned their corporate hand to coin-op conversions.

Xenophobe, the Bally Midway coin-op, first appeared way back in 1987 and was one of the first simultaneous three player games to hit the arcades. The MicroProse incarnation can only support two players, but the scenario remains unchanged. Xenos have invaded several space stations and you have to go in there and secure each base in turn before they take complete control.

'Before they take control' means you have got a set number of the 'orrid little devils to blast away before the crippling time limit expires. Fortunately, you are armed with a hand gun and the previous occupants of the bases left in such a hurry they did not have time to clear everything away. There are plenty of more powerful weapons to collect as you walk, crawl and slide your way through the horizontally-scrolling rooms that make up each base.

As well as weapons there are things like floppy disks which, when collected and inserted into an appropriate terminal, can switch on teleports to allow swift movement around the base. Then there are healing potions which can restore your energy when collected; contact with the Xenos, both the big ones and the small squid-ones, causes your health points to drop rapidly.

As you only have 2,000 points to start with those potions can be a life saver, literally. So, if you can kill the right number of aliens and collect any pieces of extra equipment to use (or trade in for points at each stage), then move on to the next base to face more aliens and blasting action.


The music playing throughout is good stuff, though you can opt for sound effects as well which are just as good. The graphics are very close to the original and everything is well animated and moves smoothly. No problems in the looks and sounds department..


It is good; not brilliant, but satisfying and different enough to keep you playing. After a while you may start to think it is all a bit repetitive but start using some of the hardware instead or just hoarding it and you will discover new areas of the game that will increase the enjoyment. As in most games, the simultaneous two-player option also adds a fair ol' slice of lasting interest.

Xenophobe logo

Der Traum jedes Action-Freaks: Eine Automaten-Umsetzung mit fetziger Musik, kunterbunter Grafik und einem Simultanmodus für Spieler! Das alles bietet Micro Styles neues Ballerspiel, plus haufenweise Aliens als Kanonenfutter. Und dennoch...

...Aber dazu kommen wir später. Werfen wir zunächst einen Blick auf die Vorgeschichte, die uns mit der unerfreulichen Tatsache konfrontiert, daß sämtliche Raumstationen der Erde von schleimigen Außerirdischen besetzt wurden. Ergo muß wieder mal irgend ein Lebensmüder die Stationen abklappern und seine Laserkanone sprechen lasen!

Besagte Basen bestehen jeweils aus etwa 12 Räumen, die kreisförmig angeordnet sind. Erst wenn alle herumstreunenden Aliens vernichtet sind, geht's weiter zur nächsten Station. Da Weltenretter traditionsgemäß nur sehr spartanisch ausgestattet werden, ist es ein Glück, daß in den Stationen allerlei nützlicher Kram wie Ausrüstungsgegenstände und Extrawaffen herumliegen, die man tunlichst während des großen Schlachtfestes einsammeln sollte.

Damit der Spieler währenddessen nicht mit dem Joystick in der Hand einschläft, haben die Programmierer mal wieder auf den Split-Screen zurückgegriffen - man darf also auch in trauter Zweisamkeit zur Sache gehen.

Außerdem hält die heiße Techno-Musik (wechselt in jedem Level!) auch den müdesten Terminator bei Laune. Wer trotzdem lieber seine Ruhe will, kann zu Beginn des Spiels in einem Menü auf Sound_FX pur umschalten.

Dort läßt sich auch der Schwierigkeitsgrad (easy, medium, hard), die Anzahl der Spieler und der Startlevel (1-4) bestimmen. Für extrem Lebensmüde hält das Menü noch die Option "begrenzter Munitionsvorrat" bereit: Jetzt kann nicht mehr nach Herzenslust drauf losgeballert werden, sondern man muß sein Auge ständig auf der Suche nach neuer Munition umherschweifen lassen.

Nach dieser Anfangsprozedur genügt ein Druck aufs Feuerknöpchen und... man kann erst mal Kaffee trinken gehen - der Ladevorgang dauert nämlich seine Zeit! Dann darf man zwischen verschiedenen Spielfiguren wählen, ehe es per Beam-Strahl (Scotty an Brücke...) zur ersten Raumstation geht. Dort fällt sofort eine Horde fremdartiger Biester über den Helden her, von schleimigen Schlangen über giftgrüne Kobolde bis zu herumwuselnden Mistkäfern ist alles vertreten.

Das eklige Gesockse klammert sich teilweise sogar an die Spielfigur und saugt Lebensenergie ab, bis es wieder abgeschüttelt wird. Die Aliens bevölkern die Raumstationen in so großer Zahl, daß Erfolgerlebnisse für den Spieler zur Seltenheit werden, und die Angelegenheit somit ziemlich frustig ist.

Was aber viel schlimmer ist: Die Steuerung gibt sich derart träge, daß auch die nette Grafik und der hervorragende Sound das Game nicht vor der Mittelmäßigkeit erretten können. Ich habe die Diskette deshalb meinem Hund zum Geburtstag geschenkt, der seither begeistert darauf herumkaut. Braver Waldi!
(Carsten Borgmeier)

Xenophobe logo

Price: £24.99

If anything, Xenophobe could easily win package quote of the year. On the front of the box, in big white letters, is the highly inventive 'Exterminate the aliens', a hard sell winner in my books. Still, it is accurate, if not inspiring all the same. In Xenophobe it is your job to go solo, or with a buddy, to board alien-infested space vessels and bases to purge them.

The first procedure is to swap disks, yes there is two of them. Follow this by selecting your character(s). An ensuing graphics sequence introduces you to the new location.

Step out of the teleporter and you are instantly confronted by outcasts from "Aliens". Pods burst open to release Critters, who then wrap themselves around various parts of your body. Roller babies roll and flatten you, then jump on your face for good measure. Tentacles reach out and smother you; the grossly named Snotterpillars fire a certain muscus-like substance in your direction. And, finally, Festors hide themselves around corners until you are in range - then reveal themselves while throwing objects at you.

In order to complete a level you have to destroy a set percentage of the aliens, before the ship self destructs. If you come across the terminal and hit the relevant switch the self destruct countdown is delayed and gives you more time for blasting.

This is only a slightly better conversion than the 64 version. It features a very standard soundtrack, beefed up with samples, and some pretty basic graphics. Xenophobe Amiga is pretty average, but will be sought after by fans of the original.

Xenophobe logo

MicroStyle, C64 £9.95 cassette, £14.95 disk; Amiga £24.99

Games for adults' here take a slightly retrograde step back to your basic 'blast everything that has pointy ears or green skin' xenophobia. The game, which shows as much understanding for aliens as Space Invaders, originated as a three-player Bally/ Midway coin-op.

The plot traces Mankind's progress from failed forays into space during the 30's (2030s one presumes) to biological warfare in the 50s. In 2062, strange transmissions are picked up by a probe orbiting Neptune. Obviously of alien origin, the transmissions cause a wave of fear, nay, a tsunami of Xenophobia!

In short order a group of space marines are assembled and blasted off into space. Upon arriving at the devastated and alien-infested 015 space station it turns out only two men can be beamed in. The game starts with each player selecting his character.

Your mission objective is wipe out the aliens and pick up all the hardware left scattered about. To complete a base you have to destroy a set number of aliens, or 'xenos', before they overrun it. Succeed and you're beamed back to your ship ready for the next base. If it looks like you're going to fail you can order a 'fast destruct'. The bases are composed of rooms which flickscroll as you move about. Most bases have several levels to be accessed by lifts.

The monsters all seem to be very close relations of H.R. Gigers's Alien, and range from hatching pods to spidery things to tentacles reaching down to grab you by the neck. There's also a leaping snotterpillar (which spits acid) and a big alien which has an energy draining stare. You must also be careful of the bases' own defence systems which may attack you unless you have the right access cards.

Of course, there's quite a variety of weapons lying around which can be picked up. When you find one, text flashes up in an action window on the score strip; pull back and you pick it up. Similarly, you can push buttons, break glass, fix gizmos, and perform several other interesting actions.

Robin Hogg Although I've seen this odd little coin-op gathering dust in the corners of the arcades I've never got round to playing it; probably because it looks a lot more complex than it actually is. That's one fault; the other is that the gameplay is far too similar from level to level although the action is frantic enough. Excellent pre-game presentation raises expectations only to see them fall down upon the sight of the style of the game and its limitations. Although well converted, Xenophobe isn't the best of coin-ops to begin with.
Stuart Wynne First impressions are very confusing, there seems to be so much happening. After a bit I got the hang of how the aliens attacked and so on, while items such as seeds and a knife promised a good adventure element. Unfortunately, while many of the items are useful (the knife can help cut alien tentacles) there isn't enough to break up the basic blasting action. With only limited variety in backgrounds I ended up a bit disappointed with a game that seemed to promise a lot.