£8.99 cass, £12.99 disk
They came from outer space and built heavily defended battle stations in our oceans. For many years mankind was unaware of their plans, until they started to rampage across an unprotected Earth. In desperation mankind initiated Project Deep Star, its mission to throw a final challenge to the aliens, and you're the pilot who must guide the most technically advanced submarine type the world has ever seen against the alien defences.
Your first task is to buy subs from a rather nasty looking alien creature (up to nine can be purchased, if you have the dosh) and arm them. There are four types, though the only real difference apart from design is their weapons carrying capabilities. The most basic model can carry three weapons, the next six, the third nine and finally the top of the range can be armed with up to twelve different weapons Choose wisely between smartbombs, various missiles, bouncing bombs and drones which girdle your sub With 12000 points at the start you will only be able to afford the most basic options, but as you collect more points bigger and better weapons are available.
Eight horizontally scrolling levels stand between you and mankind's safety, and they're infested with every kind of psycho alien you can imagine: huge gun turrets, submarines, mobile guns, assorted missile launchers and more.
One thing is damn certain, you won't complete X-OUT on your first couple of tries, we had a cheat version that gave us all the weapons available, and even then the going was tough. Don't get me wrong, the game is hell to get through, but it avoids annoying you enough to make you chuck the computer away. The sprites are monochromatic, but some of the backgrounds are very detailed, as indeed are the end of level monstrosities which cost me most of my lives. X-Out is nothing new, but it is playable enough to warrant purchase.
Shoot, shoot, dodge, shoot! That's all there is to it. This format of game has been used so many times that it just gets boring after a while. While playing X-Out you can cast your mind back to other games you've played, and it's almost identical. Who exactly gets enjoyment out of playing the same 'shoot all aliens in the level then the big monster' format? if it wasn't completely unoriginal, X-Out would be quite a good game. All the graphics and sound are reasonable with well detailed sprites, animation and plenty happening on screen. Colour is... well not there, except for monochrome, but then what isn't these days? All shoot 'em up fans will probably find X-Out a challenge and will get some enjoyment out of it, but it's not going to be a favourite of mine.
Reviewer: Matt Bielby
Well, let's get one thing out of the way to start with - this isn't as good a game as R-Type. It's got no colour, it's not as difficult, and you don't get as much feeling of real danger when you play it. But (but! but!) that's not to say it isn't an exceptionally good horizontally-scrolling shoot-'em-up, because it is! in fact, all round, it's a bit of a corker. Let's see why...
Well (ahem), actually, let's see why in a minute. First I'd better tell you what it's all about, starting with (groan) the scenario (don't worry, it won't take long). Here goes. "They came from deep space to infest our deep oceans." And, um, that's more or less it.
Basically, its your old 'all the worlds nations just about manage to cobble together one solitary space ship (or in this case, submarine) between them to go up against the bad guys, and you happen to be picked as the pilot'set-up. Except (except!) there isn't one sub at all, but oodles of them - it's just that you're only allowed to use them one at a time. (In other words, Rainbow Arts has cheated a bit in its scenario.) Still, there is a rather spiffing and incredibly comprehensive shop sequence in which you get to pick which basic craft you want, which weapons and drones you need, and which order you want to use them in (as each bites the sea-bed the next appears), so I can't complain. There's so much choice here (a large number of smaller ships or a few tougher ones etc) you could easily fiddle around with the configurations for hours. Marvellous!
The shop sequence aside, it's not the most original game ever, I have to admit. What Rainbow Arts seems to have done is take a fair smattering of the most popular and successful elements from recent shoot-'em-ups (R-Type-style snake things, four-way-scrolling play areas and so on), slot them all together quite neatly, get some pretty competent programmers to work on it (in this case Arc Developments, who did Fog Worlds) and Bob's your uncle. Or rather Cross-Outs your game (or 'Ex-Out' - there seems to be some dispute over how you pronounce the name), if you see what I mean.
Original it may not be, but play well it does. Everything's well drawn, fairly large and often nicely animated, with little crab creatures making little crab creature-type movements with their pincers, fish robots swishing their tails menacingly and the larger end- and middle-of-level monsters being particularly well designed. I 'specially liked the little mermen-riding sea snakes, who take refuge behind rocks when their mount gets zapped, and the giant oil platform-type fortification at the end of Level Two.
The only problem is that being in monochrome things often get very confusing. Stop firing your weapons and you soon realise that a good half of the bullets are your own and not the enemies' at all! The scrolling helps make things a bit less claustrophobic though. As well as left to right it moves up and down as you swing your little ship about, effectively doubling the size of the play area and giving you plenty of room to manoeuvre. While this does give some of the challenges the game presents you with a bit of a vague feel (instead of the tight, well-defined attack formations and problems faced in R-Type you get more spread-out and random-seeming waves of baddies) it also helps to open the game up a bit. Each of the eight levels feels fairly weighty and substantial because there's so much room to move.
So what are the minus points? Well, there aren't really that many at all (but just enough to conspire to rob it of Megagame status). The worst (and it isn't particularly a fault of this game - I felt a lot of others suffered from it too, including Fog Worlds) is that there's little real feeling of danger. You get hit so many times and lose energy in such little dribs and drabs that when you die you'd be hard pushed to notice why. I far prefer the R-Type 'one hit and you're dead' method. It's much more 'edge of the seat playable' (to coin a phrase).
Still, it's perhaps Rainbow Arts' best Spectrum product yet (and its games have been steadily improving lately) which bodes well for the future. As shoot-'em-ups go it's well worth checking out (in fact, it's halfway to being a bit of a classic). We liked it lots. Hurrah!
Label: Rainbow Arts
Hands up who likes destruction and mayhem?
One...two...three... eleven thousand...twelve and a half million... oh, lots and lots of you anyway. Good. You'll like X-Out.
It's pronounced Crossout, by the way, and I'm sure there's a plot in there somewhere, probably involving the Deathlord Dargon and his plan to infect the oceans of the world with a hideous new kind of brain-sucking jellyfish or something like that, but you can forget it all anyway, because what we have here is a horizontally-scrolling blaster in the R-Type mould, but set in the watery deeps where no-one can hear you gurgle, rather than in space.
Up until now most R-Type imitations have been pale reflections of the original, but, blasphemy sacrilege heresy, X-Out may be even BETTER! Gaspo de gasp! I base this opinion mainly on the sheer amount of weaponry shooting around the screen. In the opening section, after a spot of sampled music and a quick flash of your grim-jawed sub pilot, you get the chance to tool up at the underwater weapons shop. Depending on how many credits you start off with, you can choose to buy either a small number of well-endowed insect-like ships, or a larger number of punier ones; weapons available include single, double and triple cannon, different types of lasers, and drones which can be dropped from your ship to deal death and destruction until you pick them up (but you'll lose them if they crash into a solid object). There aren't any weapons to pick up in each level; but the more aliens you blast, the more credits you get to spend in the shop at the end. You can end up with a fearsome array of death-dealing hardware which fills the screen with destruction at the touch of a button, and, let's face it, that's what life is all about.
Your targets include a vast array of buildings and aliens; mid-level aliens, end-of-level aliens, big aliens, little aliens, slow aliens and fast aliens. But like all aliens, they're slimy scum and they deserve to die. In addition to all this blasting there's also a lot of manoeuvring around solid objects such as stalactites and reefs to do, because a collision costs you a life. This adds an element to the game which other blast-'em-ups just don't have.
The great thing about X-Out is that although it's very very monochrome, the background scrolls upwards and downwards as well as right-to-left, so you get a big playing area, unlike some R-Type derivatives where it's a pain to play because there isn't enough space to manoeuvre. And the aliens are great; well-designed, clear, fast-moving, and they die explosively. My favourites include the spitting Sea-snake with the diver mounted on its back, the huge end-of-level nasty looking like a cross between an in side-out chicken and a bicycle pump, and the gigantic seabed fortifications which spew out endless heat-sensing missiles and bombs.
As you'd expect (well, demand actually), in addition to your everyday lasers and missiles you get a BIG weapon which works on the energy-pump principle; hold the fire-button down and release when the charge builds up enough. You also get the obligatory energy level meters, credit indicator and so forth on the bottom of the screen. When The Big Guy hands out the lifetime awards for originality, the programmers of X-Out won't be towards the front of the queue. But they'll be well up there in the Death-spittin'-lasershootin'-alienzappin'-brain-meltin'-megablast stakes, and well deserved too.
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
Imagine diving beneath the waves to find a whole, underwater city eh! I'd like to see the smug milkman in the t.v. advert deliver his rancid red tops then. Especially if it's the underwater city of X Out, with all its defence drones and firepower.
Programmed by Walsall based software development team Arc Development, X Out has the lot. You have a choice of three subs, which you then kit out with various weapons, including three way missiles, homing missiles, drones which can be sent ahead and the recalled and three types of super weapon - flaming hands, a fireball and a forward radiating shield of doom that takes out all the enemy subs, gun emplacements and everything else for that matter with one blast.
There are four levels of fast furious action; graphics are monochrome but are as clear and precise as a surgeon's whistle, but of course you can't blow one of these underwater. Which is a a bit of ruptured cod because, X Out really is something to blow your whistle about. X Out really is one of the Porsches of the budget scene - fast, furious and fun but unlike a Porsche, you can afford to buy it now and garage it lovingly with all your other collectors' classics.
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