I’m a big fan of arcade games. I don’t mean those that introduce an arcade feel to it such as the likes of Forza – although I am a big fan of that too. Or even those games that introduce an arcade mode for their fans, such as the one recently added to Doom. No, the games I mean are those that originally put gaming on the map; the ones like Pac-man, Galaga, Space Invaders and Centipede. With gaming now being more about Triple-A blockbusters and high resolution graphics, it can be hard to believe that these long-lost gems used to be the pinnacle of gaming.
Every now and then though, a game comes along that reminds you just why arcade games are held in such high regard. So with Xenoraid’s arrival on the Xbox One providing a new arcade title for the masses to enjoy, I jumped in to see if my craving for a great arcade title could be satisfied.
Xenoraid is a top down, vertically scrolling, shoot em-up with dynamic combat, highly reminiscent of the previously mentioned Galaga and Space Invaders, but with its own modernised twist on things. Throughout the game, players take control of a set of ships, with up to four in play provided they don’t lose any. The task is to clear out all incoming enemies and ensure safe progression to the next mission.
Whilst there is a story in place, it’s the gameplay that will be the focus for players, with the tale itself offering a rather lacklustre experience in comparison. Unlike most other games in the top down shooter genre, Xenoraid takes a break from the usual movement mechanics seen with others, letting players move freely around the screen instead of being tied to an axis. This gives a real sense of freedom to the way you play, especially in later levels when much of the screen is occupied with enemy fire.
From the start players have two distinct game modes to take part in. The first is the typical story mode, which sees you take on hordes of enemy alien fleets on a mission to conquer earth. There are five different locations to battle across from the ringed planet of Enceladus, all the way to Earth.
Each planet consists of several missions that need to be completed in order to progress onto the next planet. The best way to ensure this is by purchasing and upgrading ships from those available to you. In Xenoraid there is no right or wrong way to purchase and upgrade ships, and neither is this a linear process. From the off you are given the choice of those that are both nimble and powerful, but terribly weak when attacked, or ships that can take a beating but fire much slower, albeit devastating, shots. These vary dependant on the mission you are doing and you’ll be given the choice of ships that are capable of the task at hand, however which of these you choose is up to you. When in combat players can switch freely between each one with A, B, X and Y; unless of course you end up destroyed, in which case the next ship will be chosen for you.
Managing them is a very important aspect of the game. Whilst some will instantly choose to buy four of the fastest ships available and upgrade them to have the edge in movement, those slower ships are certainly the ones you want to call on when the boss levels start to drop. Of course, there is nothing stopping those looking to progress with a balanced line-up from buying a mix of both ship types to prepare for all oncoming battles. It is also important to note that ships destroyed in game are gone for good.
Whilst arcade shooters are particularly known to be challenging adventures, 10tons have certainly implemented a truly challenging battle with the A.I. in Xenoraid. The challenge isn’t just in the on-screen bullet hell that accompanies the enemies in later levels either. You see, the A.I. in Xenoraid don’t follow set paths meaning they can follow your movements around the screen and can also avoid the fire you direct at them. Whilst this is certainly a welcome change from the usual on rails combat usually found, the new combat style certainly ramps up the difficulty. With enemies constantly on the lookout, and despite the challenging combat, 10tons have done a great job to ensure that it never falls into the unfair category.
Another positive for the game is in its accessibility. Whilst this is certainly a title that could be completed in an afternoon – provided your skills are up to scratch, those looking for something to pick up and play for 20 minutes or so will certainly not be disappointed. With checkpoints after every couple of missions, Xenoraid is a great title for those that don’t have the time to be chugging on for hours on end.
For those with the skills required to best all the alien forces and the terrifyingly powerful bosses that accompany them to each world, then Xenoraid also provides an enjoyable experience in its survival mode. There are three different levels included in survival, each with varying enemies from three of the different planets in the story; Enceladus, Phobos and Earth. Each of these task the player with surviving as long as possible against increasingly higher numbers, and more intense opponents. With them being never ending, the eventual demise of the player is certain, however with an online leaderboard in place for the competitive gamers out there, those wishing to hold a respectable position will certainly have a task on their hands.
One final thing worth noting is that whilst Xenoraid is certainly an enjoyable solo experience, 10tons have not forgotten those of you looking to enjoy this indie gem together with a friend, including an impressive co-op mode for up to 4 players. This helps to make the experience a whole lot easier – provided your co-op buddies possess a decent amount of skill with a controller.
Overall and whilst the experience in Xenoraid is certainly not for those looking for a simple nostalgic trip, the gameplay on offer is a refreshing and modernised reinvention of one of the greatest genres in gaming. With some of the smoothest gameplay and most simplistic controls seen this year, Xenoraid is certainly a title to look out for and another impressive addition to an already great library courtesy of 10tons.