|System: Xbox||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Playlogic International||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Playlogic International||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Patrick||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
By Patrick Evans
The classic-shooter genre is one that has fallen out of favor in recent years, brushed aside by games that feature epic storylines and complicated gameplay. While there may be more to games of the modern era, no one can deny the challenge of mastering an arcade shooter like R-Type, or more recently Ikaruga on Gamecube. Playlogic International is introducing a new game to the dying genre and with it a couple of un-orthodox gameplay elements. When Xyanide misses it misses badly, but the novelty and difficulty of this title makes it one that any arcade-shooter nut should check out.
Most games of this type dont often offer much in the way of a plot or back-story. Of all those I can think of, only the now-defunct Working Designs Silpheed remake from 2001 comes to mind in terms of showing the story through cut-scenes. Simple and effective at putting the player against all odds, the Silpheed plot wasnt anything to write home about. The exact same thing can be said for Xyanide, which puts you in the cockpit of a dynamic space-fighter and tells you to have at it. The enemy in this title is a cherub, angel, or whatever, that can materialize adversaries with its thoughts thanks to the substance Xyanide.
Every shooter needs its little gimmick these days, and Xyanide is no different. Instead of placing the ship in a tunnel that scrolls, allowing the ship to move within the tunnel but with the same constant orientation, Xyanide jostles players around in a full three dimensional environment. Gamers will get a look at their ship from every angle as they progress through the games six longer-than-usual stages as the game camera spins on all three axes.
Enemies that attack from all directions will usually first fall into your plane. Imagine if you will, your ship rotating as it flies along the tunnels of whatever the chubby little cherub thinks up, and enemies plant themselves on the same Z axis as your ship, continuously rotating along with the camera. Sounds confusing, right? Its certainly an adjustment when you pick the game up for the first time, but an hour or so on the sticks will set you straight.
Anyone that has ever played Geometry Wars on Xbox Live will know exactly how the firing mechanics work here. You can control your ship on the X and Y axis with your left control stick, and fire by pushing the right control stick in the desired direction. There are two different modes or fire to choose from; the first is a spread shot that works well against the smaller adversaries you face, while there is also a concentrated fire mode that is a little slower but much more powerful for those pesky super-ships you will run into. Not all enemies you fight will meet you on your Z axis, as is often the case for mid-level and end-level bosses. In these fights, pushing the control stick in the direction of the ship on the screen will send your fire towards it in the Z direction. The problem with this mechanic is that it is very unruly and almost impossible to control. If you are dodging enemies on your axis while attempting to fire at the mother-ship beneath you, your guns will often switch between firing at the little guys instead of the real threat. Also, it is very difficult to be accurate in selecting the individual targets in these fights. Instead on firing at that gun that is pummeling you, your guns may be focused on a hanger or shield unit instead. You are given missiles to use for the tougher ships you encounter, but the problem still persists if you instead wish to fire at the smaller ships and not the boss. This clumsy aiming system very-nearly kills the entire experience by making the game much harder than it is already, which is pretty f*%&@! hard in the first place. Thankfully, adjustable difficulties help curb the aiming issue, allowing players to learn to compensate for the clumsy mechanics and become efficient pilots.
Besides the wonky aiming, there are also a few minor issues that the developers fell short on, the first of which is in-game presentation. The gauges and icons in-game are pretty confusing for a rookie, and unless you have studied the instructions like a flight-manual, you will have little idea what any of it means. Some power-ups will bolster your firepower, while some will temporarily boost your defenses, but you have no idea what they look like until you are nearly a master of the game. Less an issue and more of a complaint from me is the shield that you evidently get. Your fighter is covered by perhaps the weakest shield in Science Fiction history. If you are going to include the shield, at least make it a little more efficient.
Visually, Xyanide didnt impress me until late in the game. She might look crisp and free of slowdown, but flying down the same-looking tunnels for hours, and it will be hours until you get good enough to plow through the opening three stages, gives you the gaming equivalent of road hypnosis. The developers were basically handed a blank slate with the idea of an evil being that can think up ANYTHING to throw at you, and they instead opted for plain and boring for a majority of the game. It must be mentioned, however, that the last couple stages have some of the weirdest designs that Ive seen in a long time. Overall, Xyanide looks good, but nothing that puts it too far past the likes of Ikaruga or Silpheed for that matter.
One aspect that is difficult to accurately score or gauge is the sheer cool-factor of the games mini-boss and level-boss encounters. Taking on a ship that is 200 times your size as you both speed through a corridor is cool, but it gets even cooler when the fight is interrupted by your branching paths, only to be brought back together to finish what you started. End-level bosses are equally cool, with your ship repeatedly doing fly-bys as you deal with its many different systems, weapons, and defense craft/creatures. Anyone looking to create original arcade-shooters would do well to take note from this one.
Being a completely new and original shooter automatically puts Xyanide in good shape, but that it is a budget title to boot only sweetens the deal. In a genre that is dominated by compilation sets and remakes, presenting epic-scaled boss fights and a nauseating gameplay concept makes for a solid title. Its a shame that the controls werent tighter and the level design werent more varied, because this one could have been a classic. As it stands now, its a title easily worth picking up for shooter fans tired of being stuck with R-Type.
CCC Staff Writer