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By: Ken Anderson
You know how it is - sometimes you just want to sit down in front of your
computer and not really think about what you're doing. The marketing
people call it "visual bubble-gum", but marketing people would call a spade
a manually- operated earth-excavation device if they though that people
would pay an extra 25% for it. Enter XP8, from the independent WeatherMine
Software. Perfect for those times when mindlessly killing a few aliens
will soothe all those troubles away.
The plot is the usual shoot'em'up nonsense - rogue satellite drifts into
your space, you send back a ship to say "hello", and before you know it,
it's all-out war, and of course it's down to you to save the day. What it
boils down to is firing small groups of pixels at much larger groups of
pixels, in the hope of credible score.
Shipping on four disks, XP8 installs nicely onto the hard disk, and after a
few static intro screens to recap the plot, it's time to set the options
and get blasting.
Ten seconds after choosing "start", you'll more than likely be thinking
something along the lines of "Blimey, this looks like Stardust". If you
haven't heard of Stardust, you've obviously been hiding somewhere remote
for the last couple of years. Stardust was basically the old Atari classic
Asteroids, given the full Amiga treatment, with stunning ray-traced
graphics and over-the-top presentation.
XP8 doesn't look as good as Stardust, but in places it comes damn close.
The first level is a bit tame, with kamikaze lines of aliens flooding down
the screen to be dispatched with your peashooter of a laser. Destroying
aliens reaps the reward of power-ups - power-up your weapon, increase your
shields - the standard stuff. As you move through the levels, more weapons
make themselves available.
Level two hots things up a bit, adding ground-based enemies. By this time,
the game's more like Banshee, with tall buildings to crash into. It's not
always clear exactly what is and isn't to be avoided, but you learn
quickly. By the fourth level, you daren't blink for fear of missing
something that could spell death. Passcodes are provided at the end of
each level, which helps ... but most of the levels are *very* big.
And? That's about it. Looks smashing, though. Just about everything is
ray-traced; nice shiny aliens get shot by shiny bullets, which causes them
to explode in shiny explosions. The whole thing runs at 50 frames per
second - resulting in a silky- smooth scroller, and with 5 large levels to
fight through, a lot of work has gone into making this game look good.
An unusual idea is the customise option - elements of the game can be made
easier - or tougher - at your own discretion. Whether you'll want to use
these options until you've completed the game "normally" is up to you...
So it's the gameplay of Banshee with the graphics of Stardust. If you want
an advert for just how good an Amiga game can look, buy this. If you loved
Banshee or Stardust, buy this. If you love a good old-fashioned blast, buy
this. In fact, unless you don't own a joystick and can't stand any kind of
game when you have to stay awake, buy this. At only 20UKP, it's a bargain.
(XP8 is currently AGA only. An ECS version was scheduled for the end of
May - hopefully we'll have more news in the next issue.)
XP8 can be ordered from: WeatherMine Software, 50 Taleworth Road, Ashtead,
Surrey KT21 2PY, UK. Cheques/IMO/PO for 19.99UKP to WeatherMine Software.
Pros: The best-looking Amiga game for some time. Can be made more or less
challenging with the customisable options.
Cons: Not exactly a "deep" game, and so won't appeal to everyone.