Think of Xenoraid as a revamped and reworked version of the classic arcade game ‘Space Invaders’… it’s not actually, but it has that feel. Yes, it’s a small indie game and you certainly wouldn’t pick it up for the storyline. Its selling point comes from its addictive, retro feel gameplay. I thought it would be a play through once and then confine to my PlayStation library for all eternity type of game. This has not been the case however, as I stated, you won’t be buying Xenoraid for its storyline and I presume that was 10ton’s (the developer’s) intentions anyway. With Xenoraid you will pick it up for the tight controls, impressive visuals and the undeniable addictiveness the game imposes on you.
Let’s start with the visuals; Xenoraid is a vertical space age shoot ’em up kind of game and the visuals do an exceptional job of portraying that. Graphics wise, the game presents a cartoon style but a clean and well-polished one at that. On screen, you will have your ship which may be one of many types along with a relentless hail of brightly coloured foreign projectiles that you need to swerve through with precision whilst also doing some damage of your own in return. The backdrop will consist of some rather artistically designed representations of planets mixed with falling asteroids, cosmic dust, and emission nebulas (glowing clouds of hot gas and dust in space… y’know in case you were wondering). In simple terms, ‘it’s a pretty game.’ Very pleasing to the eyes and the developers nailed the visual aspect of Xenoraid.
Next up, we’ll touch on the game’s sound. Xenoraid features a very retro sci-fi soundtrack that slots in nicely behind the on-screen carnage, actively adjusting itself to fit the current game state, which is always a nice touch and… well there’s not a whole lot else to be said there. You won’t be scouring the internet in search of a way to download the soundtrack but you will enjoy it whilst you’re engaged in the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, let’s… umm… speak about gameplay I suppose. Typically, vertical shooter games are very simple in terms of the controls, quite often requiring only left, right and fire. Xenoraid very welcomingly brings some new gameplay elements to the table and utilises considerably more buttons. First up is ship swapping. At any stage you will have four ships at your disposal (unless they are destroyed) that sport varying loadouts and ship types themselves. You have smaller more agile ships that spray out projectiles like nobodies business, but, are more susceptible to damage. Then you have larger ships that are slower and can take a little more damage but fire the likes of missiles, cluster bombs and even a plasma cutter (essentially a flamethrower in space… yes, it’s pretty cool). Each of your ships are assigned to either triangle, circle, x, or square and you can swap between them at your leisure by hitting the corresponding button. This comes in handy for taking out certain enemy types, avoiding losing a ship on low health, or when your weapons overheat. Weapon overheating is perhaps another slightly more unorthodox gameplay mechanic for the genre, due to the implementation of weapon overheating you have to be slightly less reliant on the good old ‘spray ‘n’ pray’ method of attack. This can be solved by swapping to another ship when one overheats. It’s a little overwhelming at first, however, once you get a feel for each ship it’s a great addition to the game.
The shooting itself actually allows for angular firing. By this I mean you would expect to only be able to shoot in a straight line, however, in Xenoraid when you move your ship left or right it actually tilts slightly. This means you can shoot diagonally across the screen whilst you’re moving. This allows you to hit targets on the other side of the screen with more ease than you might expect. On the subject of shooting, the AI in Xenoraid are more intelligent than anticipated which adds some irregularity to movement and shooting, in the sense that they don’t just follow pre-planned paths. It’s great to see AI that react to your movement as well as things such as asteroids. Of course, they do have programmed routes but they also have the ability to leave them.
Also worth noting, you aren’t limited to only left and right. You can also go up and down as you please which gives you more freedom to pull off those sweet aerial manoeuvres that prove rather necessary as soon as asteroids are brought into the equation. Yes, there is the occasional asteroid onslaught which can really differ in size and quantity, leaving you with little hope of predicting what’s coming. Asteroids are not innately bad for you however, as they will provide you with cover. Oh, and enemy ships have a tendency to hit them and explode on impact which is a nice little bonus.
Outside of the game stages themselves, you have access to upgrades, repairs and tech. There is a rather surprisingly (the good kind) expansive selection here that allows you to play to your own strengths: If you want to max out the upgrades on one ship and use it as your ‘main’ one then go right ahead, if you get blown up a lot then invest in the defensive tech such as countermeasures and escape pods, if you want four nimble ships and no tanky ones, knock yourself out. People play games differently, 10tons knows this and allows people to play Xenoraid in the way they want to play it.
To wrap things up, I would recommend this game strongly to fans of the genre. If you’ve played games like this before and enjoyed them then Xenoraid will be a delight to play. Even if you haven’t really played vertical shooters before (personally I hadn’t given one a fair go until Xenoraid came along) then I would still suggest picking up a copy. It’s one of those games you can sit down and play for twenty minutes or wile away the best part of an afternoon bashing away at it. Better still it features a co-op mode which I find always increases the enjoyment of a game substantially.
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