The game of Xeno developed on the frozen moon of Io, where bored miners used to bash lumps of frozen methane around a flattened patch of ground. The computer version pits you against the computer or a friend. The screen shows a rostrum camera view of the pitch which flips between five overlapping sections, depending where the puck is. Each player controls one skimmer, and the idea is to knock the puck over the opposing players’ goal line. The puck and the skimmers all float over the surface of the arena and bounce off each other and the sides of the pitch.
The players take it in turn to attempt to hit the puck. At the start of the game, a ‘time out’ is set and this time — from one to nine seconds — is the time a player has to set up a shot. When it’s your turn, you position a cursor on the pitch. An ‘elastic’ line stretches between the skimmer and the cursor ... useful, because the screen always displays the segment of pitch containing the puck, so if your skimmer is some distance away, it occupies another segment and doesn’t appear on screen. Then, either when the time out ends, or when fire is pressed, the skimmer speeds towards the cursor. Then it’s the other player’s chance to have a go. Obviously, with longer time out times, both players can position the cursor meticulously, and have time to work out all the angles. With quick time outs, it becomes a fast and furious game. The idea is, predictably, to hit the puck through the opposing goal. When you do, the crowd roars, the electronic scoreboards around the stadium flash, and it’s back to the centre for a kick off. The game is divided up into four quarters which can last from one to nine minutes each. At the beginning of each quarter and after every goal, the puck is kicked off again from the centre. The pitch is shaped like a squared off oval, with goals placed at either end and the trick in the game is to try to keep the puck between you and your opponent’s goal. Once it gets behind you, unless you can work out some fancy angles, it’s best just to zip down to your own goal area.
There are no holds barred in this game, and in the true spirit of that ancient game soccer, it sometimes pays to play the man rather than the ball, as this can knock the opposing skimmer out of a favourable shooting position. This is particularly effective if you are the wrong side of the ball: if you can knock your opponent past the puck, he’s going to find it difficult to score, giving you time to get back behind the puck. After four quarters of frantic bouncing around, the winner is the player to score the most goals (natch). There’s no extra time if the scores are level...
“Wow! It’s not that often that we get future sport simulations in, but when we do they are often excellent. Xeno is the best yet. From the word go there is nothing but fast and furious action — the two skimmers whizz around the arena at tremendous speed and you really need to have your wits about you if you want to win. The game is extremely compelling to play and, due to its simplicity, very easy to get into. The graphics are very good, if a little sparse, and the characters are all excellently drawn, shaded and animated. The sound is not bad with stacks of spot effects during the game as well as a sort of tune thing. On the whole I strongly recommend this game — it is exceptionally playable.”
“Xeno is a strange but excellent game. The game plays and looks like Ballblazer from above, but all the action is very smooth. I found Xeno quite hard to get used to at first, but after a few goes the basic idea of the game becomes very clear — move fast, and think even faster. Every move in the game has to be planned well in advance, as taking time to figure things out gives your opponent valuable seconds. The flickscreen technique is well used. All in all Xeno is a very playable and addictive game.”
“Ballblazer was the only thing I could think of when I first loaded this Xeno, but after a bit of serious play, I decided that it was an excellent game in its own right. The graphics move smoothly and quickly, and the game bounces about at a rate which makes it both fun to play and addictive. The crowd around the stadium are a pretty well behaved bunch: no riots or anything in the future! Generally, I think that Xeno is the sort of game that I could play for an infinite length of time: great!!”
Control keys: redefinable: left, right, up, down, fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: joystick play is better
Use of colour: monochrome play area
Graphics: good shadows, smooth animation
Sound: you hardly get time to listen to it!
Skill levels: one
Screens: segmented pitch
General rating: A Fast and furious ‘futuresport’: well worth a look
|Use of computer||85%|
|Value for money||84%|