Sunday, September 17, 2006
Good: Graphics, Control
Bad: Only Six Levels, Depth Perception Issues
Game should come with: A free sample of Dramamine
Here's an original plot: After judgment has been passed on the evil witch Aguira it becomes your job to escort her to the site of her punishment-the edge of a collapsing star. Unfortunately, your prison convoy is bombarded by a meteor shower containing Xyanide, a substance that can make mere thoughts a reality. To make matters worse Aguira caught a rather large chunk of the telepathic ore in (or rather through) her chest. It doesn't take her long to make use of her new powers as she begins to weave a cocoon of spires and tunnels around her and then sends an armada after your tiny ship, just for good measure.
So begins Xyanide, a shooter that combines the dipping, diving, nauseating "on rails" movement of most shooters with the dual analog control of the wickedly popular Geometry Wars.
The game does a couple of things to set it apart from your standard Shooter. First, you're given four special attacks- one for offense, defense, shield and support. Each of these attacks must be discovered and can only be used once. While only one of the attacks actually kills your enemies they all increase your chances of survival by doing things like disabling incoming ships or turning your craft invisible.
The second, and more significant innovation comes in the form of the game's two weapon types, organic and mechanic, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Organic weapons are ideal for swarms of smaller enemies because they put out a high volume of ammunition that covers a large area of the screen. It's also possible to fire homing missiles while using an organic weapon.
Mechanic weapons fire focused blasts of energy in a single direction and are better suited against larger enemies and bosses. Instead of the fire-and-forget organic missiles, mechanic missiles must be locked-on to an enemy. They can also be charged up and fired in clusters for massive damage. Changing from organic to mechanic weapons is done with the Right Trigger.
The game does an excellent job of creating situations that require you to take advantage of both weapons' specific strengths. At times dozens of smaller enemies fill the screen, each with their own movement patterns and attacks. In situations like this the organic weapon is the obvious answer. Then suddenly the swarm will give way to a group of larger enemies or a mid-level boss that requires you to rapidly switch from organic to mechanic to attack the larger ships and then back to organic in order to keep the little pests away. The result is a game that, at its best is frantic, reflex-heavy and fun.
Unfortunately, those moments are interrupted by a flawed auto-targeting system and faulty collision detection. Both of these issues arise from Xyanide's failure to marry your ship's 2D movement with the game's 3D world.
Your craft can only move forwards, backwards, left and right but your enemies can come from anywhere including the foreground and background. It's even possible to shoot down incoming swarms before they get to you. That's where the game's targeting system starts to break down. At crucial times it's possible for your ship to shift its aim from the enemies directly in front of you to ships that are barely a speck on the horizon. This almost always leads to death.
Also, since enemies are coming from every direction it's possible for them to crash into your ship before they've appeared on screen. Other times it's difficult to tell when enemy ships are on the same plane of movement as your ship. This also leads to unnecessary crashes.
Other gripes worth mentioning are the relatively short time for completion, the lack of multiple game modes and the absence of online Co-op. While the game's stages are large and feature multiple bosses, there are only six of them. The latter levels boarder on overwhelming in terms of difficulty and sheer number of enemies on screen, which is nice, but even two more levels would've helped greatly.
In the end Xyanide is a satisfying game for fans of the Shooter genre. Anyone who cut their teeth on the R Type or Gradius series or has recently given Geometry Wars a shot will feel right at home with this game. The controls are easily accessible, the visuals are impressive and the sound actually serves a purpose by allowing you to predict enemy attacks and movements. Despite all of that, the game is short and it offers almost no replay value, but at 20 bucks it's a worthy purchase for a fan of the near-forgotten Shooter.
First Play: 6.5
Replay Value: 5.0