With your great reputation as an eraser of aliens, you're employed to rid a planet of a mixed bag of beasties. You face a world infested with rotund attackers released from birth pods, homing missiles, accelerating space lice, exploding mines, and bum-pummelling hydraulic plungers.
For protection, you carry a blaster to destroy the lesser, thin-skinned aliens and laser-beam barriers; greandes that take out stronger creatures, machinery, obstructing rock formations and mushrooms; and a pulse bomb that disrupts enemy security systems. Blaster ammunition and grenades are replenished with each loss of life, and extra supplies may be collected from arsenal boxes.
For additional safety, passing through a dressing unit clothes you in an exoskeleton, and thus besuited you have extra blast power and protection against ground mines and some aliens. But if you're wearing this suit when a level of 25 screens is completed, your bravery bonus falls from 10,000 points to only 1,000.
Control keys: definable
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2
Use of colour: excellent, on option screens as well as the game itself
Graphics: big, colourful and smooth
Sound: great tune and splendid FX on the 128, otherwise limited
Skill levels: one
'It's always nice to relax with a good shoot-'em-up, and Exolon is an excellently-presented game of this type. The graphics are highly-detailed and colourful, and the movement is very smooth. Though it's very simple, it can keep you amused for hours - each screen presents the player with a host of new problems. Instantly playable and highly addictive, Exolon makes an excellent buy for shoot-'em-up fans.'
'Exolon is a very good, very playable, very addictive game. The graphics are terrific - the backgrounds and gun emplacements are very pretty. And the aliens are a real pain in the backside as they wander around the screen, killing you off at every opportunity. Overall Exolon is a highly competent space shoot-'em-up - go out and buy it.'
'Hey! Exolon is a really good game! The graphics are superb, with excellent use of colour, and there's so much to do that it's sure to last for ages. The high-score table is big, on eof the largest I've seen, and the options sceen is nice and bright. The different guns, the teleports and bits of scenery that have to be shifted are all portrayed very prettily, and require different tactics; my personal favourite is the gun that fires on two levels at the same time. Brilliant!'
The shoot 'em up is back in style, from the most basic blast-everything-that-moves scenario to sophisticated multi-weapon spectaculars that require the digital dexterity of a concert pianist.
But Exolon adds a new dimension to the genre. It's nothing like the never-ending waves of Galaxi-Defendas that most of us cut our teeth on, but it doesn't shoot itself in the foot by being so complex that you need a PhD before you can start blasting. The secret is that the squidgy spacecraft has been replaced by one king-sized, individual hero, who walks the surface of the planet, jumping and ducking to dodge the shots and missiles of the singularly unfriendly aliens. You have to clear obstructions, decide on the best path across the surface, and even have to choose your clothes!
This is the sort of hand to hand combat that Rambo revels in. It's one man, his laser and grenades, against everything the enemy can throw at him.
The simplest of these to solve are the rockets and boulders which block your path. Hold down fire to launch a grenade and reduce the rocks to rubble. Unluckily there's very little else on the planet quite so passive.
You can blow up single shooting canons fairly easily, but double barrel blasters are more tricky as they can't be shot. Instead, get past them for a healthy bonus. There are also missile guidance orbs which you have to decapitate, unless you want to end up bombing out.
If you're tired of all that shooting there's one feature that you can't destroy - the pneumatic hammers, if you get caught on one of these as it shoots up from the surface you'll be propelled straight to heaven. The only way to avoid them, at least in the initial screens is to choose your moment well and march resolutely forward, praying!
If the hostile installations aren't enough, there are also aliens which fly in waves and haunt almost every screen. They come in a variety of sizes with different attack patterns. The small red ones are only set free when you blow up a birth pod, and tend to hang around.
Their big brothers drift in a sort of sine-wave curve and you may have to jump to get them - but often it's better to duck and let them float overhead. A useful hint is that the height at which they enter the screen seems to be governed by your position. The really big problem is the king size killers who loop the loop and sneak up behind you if you don't blast them on their run in.
There are missiles and android-creatures too, all of which will keep your finger twitching on the trigger... but don't overdo it because there's nothing worse than running out of ammo a screen before the next lot of supplies.
Now all of this would make up a reasonably exciting, fast moving arcade game, but there's also a level of strategy. Don't panic though - it doesn't diminish the action. You'll have to take advantage of the teleports, which shuttle you between the ground and walkways on certain screens. You'll never know which it's better to take until you've tried it... and then there's no going back.
There's also the question of how to dress for battle. Occasionally you'll find a changing room which lets you slip into an exoskeleton. This gives you added protection and doubles your fire-power but you'll lose out on a bonus at the end of the twenty five screens that make up a level.
Knowing what lies ahead is the secret of Exolon's addictiveness. Playing it is a process of learning, so that if taking the upper path turns out to be a mistake, you'll want to try again with the lower one immediately. The program plays fair too, so that you never get stuck in one of those instant-death situations that ruin certain programs.
The other great attraction is the graphics. Programmer Ralaelle Cecco was the brains behind Mikro-Gen's Equinox, but this time he's gone one better with huge sprites, sparkling colour and minimal attribute problems. The animation of the central sprite is nothing short of amazing - it walks with a real soldier's trudging step.
We've seen three versions of Exolon in the office and each one has contained something new. I loved the original but the YS Seal refused to let me review it. Then a clever bit of code gave 128K owners extra sound for the title screen and effects. The final addition has been a mini-game between levels, which tests your reactions for an even bigger bonus.
At last Exolon is ready. How do I sum it up? Three words say it all. Exolon - extreme excellence'!
If Exolon were a car, it would be a Plymouth Roadrunner. If it were a place it would be Nebraska, if it were a gun, it would be a .44 magnum. Or in other words Exoion is, without doubt, the best game to appear on the Spectrum for ages.
Having misfired fairly wildly with Gunrunner - at least that's what I thought, nobody else seemed to agree with me - Hewson has tried essentially the same formula of a lone figure, working his way from the left to the right of an alien world, annihilating everything in sight.
But this time, though, everything falls into place with outstanding precision. Every element is tuned to the perfect degree of speed, difficulty, frustration and excitement.
Though largely unimportant, the idea of the game is that you play Vitorc, a heroic warrior who must penetrate deep into the enemy defence system and blow it all to bits.
This is - as if you couldn't have guessed - a lot tougher than it sounds. Every screen has a collection of aliens which make life remarkably hard.
These usually take the shape of balloon-type things which float across the screen in fluctuating and very unpredictable sine-wave patterns. They can be wiped out pretty easily by leaping into the air and firing continually, spraying the screen with laser bolts: but since you've only got 99 shots in each magazine - and if you run out, you'll have to wait 'til you reach the next ammo dump before you can defend yourself again - that's not as good an idea as it first seems.
Larger constructions like missile pads, radar towers, missile guidance systems - each beautifully detailed and graphically big - and suchlike can't be destroyed with laserfire. Instead, you have to employ the innocent looking back-pack that Vitorc carries around. By holding down the Fire button for a couple of seconds, you'll loose off one of your rockets. It will shoot off, leaving a wonderful colourful jet trail behind it, and when it finds a target, you'll be treated to an explosion of truly stunning proportions. Pieces of exploded objects fill the screen as the tower/missile base etc is destroyed.
Exolon follows the path set by Zynaps in using colour throughout. Attribute clash, while present, is hardly noticeable, and it's so great to see things in more than two colours for a change.
There are 125 levels in all, and its going to take someone with a damned sight more skill than anyone at SU to complete it!
To help you along, though, a strong exo-skeleton can be found somewhere on one of the screens. By climbing into it, you'll be protected from most attacks and you'll also be endowed with amazing double-firepower. When you've got the suit, you become almost invincible. Crashing into aliens will still kill you, though.
At the end of every twenty levels or so. you will move to a bonus section, where points are awarded for taking the most dangerous route through the game. Also, you get to score a couple of thousand points on a quick-reaction mini-game.
You start off with ten lives, and you'll need them all if you are going to make it through.
Making it to Screen 25 was considered a serious achievement at SU and Exolon produced more squabbles over who's turn it was next than any other game so far this year!
Exolon is superb - no question. Its graphics, gameplay and sheer excitement make it a genuine joy.
Destined to go down in the annals of computer games along with Manic Miner, Lunar Jetman and Knight Lore. Superb.
Author: Rafaelle Cecco
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
MACHINES: Spectrum/CBM 64/Amstrad
PRICE: £7.95 (Spectrum), £8.95 (CBM/Amstrad)
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum
It looks good. It plays good and by golly it is good. Exolon is the best of the current crop of Hewson games.
It's a little like Hewson's Gunrunner to look at. You control a spaceman armed with a gun and a rocket launcher strapped to his back. The aim is to rid the planet of marauding aliens.
The spaceman must continually move to his right, encountering aliens, obstacles, land mines, hammers that erupt from the ground and "birth pods" which, when destroyed, spew the deadly spawn into the atmosphere. There are also extra rockets and bullets to be picked up.
The way the rockets are launched off his back is really impressive and the resulting explosions are some of the best I've seen on the Spectrum.
The spaceman has to duck, dodge, jump and blast his way through the aliens.
The plot outline is fairly simple but the game itself is very addictive to play. The graphics are excellent.
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