Thursday, 25 February 2016

Xybots - Arcade

How... do you pronounce that?

Take 2 players, drop them into a maze filled with increasingly more difficult layouts and monsters/robots and make it part Third Person Shooter and you've effectively got yourself Xybots.

It's quite a bit daunting at the start

In taking from possibly the idea of Gauntlet but giving us an "in maze" view rather than the typical top-down view, Xybots not only takes the approach of giving us warning messages the first time anything new happens, much like in Gauntlet, but it also lets us see the action happening in the playing field. The view itself is split up into 3 parts. One screen for player 1, one screen for player 2 and the rest of the screen, which is the upper half, is dedicated to stats, layouts and the map for both players.

And then the difficulty kicks in

Play takes place for Xybots in the same arena for each player. As the players move and progress through the maze, they'll gradually map the maze out from their views. Sometimes players start together, sometimes they don't but they ideally have to find the same exit (and there's warps to other levels too). This leads to possible routes of attack where players can flank and ambush enemies that have specifically-directional shields. In other cases this isn't a good idea as the game may flag up that shooting each other will hurt and most hits take 10% of your ever-fading life bar.

Maps and sensors, though costly, will save a lot of time.

Yep, Xybots is one of those countdown games where the longer you take, the less health you'll have in the next round and such. However the game is unique with its control system in that not only do you navigate with the joystick to move forwards, backwards, sidestepping left and right, but turning is done by twisting the top of the control to turn 90 degrees either left or right depending upon the direction turned. If you're not aware the game can do this, you'll find several first few maps that have you running sideways down a corridor until you either learn it, get killed or miraculously get to the end of the corridor while being shot at.

Some enemies have shields, some fire back. Beware those that have both functions.

Enemies are the rather non-descript entities ranging from spaceships that pick up items and move them around, including coins which are used to buy things at the end of levels, health, keys, weapons and so on. Large robots that move and shoot at you while taking several hits to be killed fully, smaller robots that take similar hits but can selectively use shields to block and fire, insect looking things that move almost erratically and hammer the player with a huge level of shots while they themselves can only be shot at JUST the right time. Every now and then you get to meet a Master Xybot which needs to be shot repeatedly in key places to succeed and losing will knock you back some 10 or so levels. Sounds very fair to me.

Each new event gets a lovely little (annoying) message about it!

Speaking of sounds, the music in the game takes a very lacklustre approach and while it doesn't overwhelm the ambience of the game, there's plenty of room for extra that could be better used to build upon the mechanics of the game. While the sounds are the usual bleep and bloops we've come to expect from this time period, it's interesting to behold the digitised speech mechanic within the game. Otherwise it's clear that most of the focus has gone into the graphics of the game and the gameplay.

And there's bosses too... Good luck.

It's a fun game initially though the first few levels are a little too gradual on the difficulty curve while later levels will ramp it up to becoming a vertical way that eventually flexes back upon itself. Stick to it a little and have someone competent playing alongside you and you'll do well to enjoy this game.