If it's Chrissy, it's coin-op conversions, right? You betcha, and Microprose aren't going to be outdone by the likes of anyone else, so have chipped in with this here offering called Xenophobe.
Xenophobe? Wassat? Fear of things alien like sulphur breathing, acid blooded, green scaled, bad tempered pentapeds from other worlds. Like 12 foot tall blobs from your worst nightmares. Like Sue Lawley.
Despite this loathing however, it is your mission - together with a compatriot if you so desire, to travel to strange new space stations, discover strange alien beings, then give 'em a strange smack or two where it hurts most. Get the idea? Originally this was a hoopy coin-op from Bally Midway, with a screen big enough for three players at once and a special joystick with two fire buttons on it, but those clever tinkers at Visage have cut it down to work in 48K and with a normal jobbie. But how does it play???
Well, compared to the original, not bad considering. They've had to cut things down a bit, of course - the main thing being the action cut down from a maximum of three players to two. But like the coin-op (and games like Spy vs Spy), you've each got independent screens, one of you the top half, the other the bottom.
Then, in glorious Monochromavision the action starts with you selecting a team member to play (one out of nine in fact) and being beamed onto a space station where the crew have been wiped out by ALIENS!!!!! You start off with a Phaser, of course, and can just blast away at the different aliens as you move from flip screen room to room, roaming around the base. There are six different types in all to watch out for, from the relatively harmless 'Pod' (which mutates into a 'Critter' unless dispatched with speed) to a real Allen lookalike, a 'Festor' which will hyptonise you, then lock its 15 sets of teeth around your throat.
But it's not all just blasting, there is an element of thought, as you collect items scattered throughout the spacecraft and use them when prompted. All this action is mediated by a clever control system of on screen (well under screen actually) prompts which you respond to by moving the joystick down or up.
While the aliens are giving you hell, you find that being hit decreases your health score, shown of the left of the status display. Problem is, some of them latch on to you and won't let go, draining you of energy constantly. Now you have to close your eyes, think of Daley Thompson and waggle the stick like mad in order to shake the baddie off.
There're extra weapons too, like bombs and laser pistols, thing is that is you get hit while using them (very likely) you drop them. And the more sophisticated and powerful the weapon, the more fragile it is.... And the more likely it is to break when you drop it. Ever tried getting an Alien off your throat with your bare hands, buddy? Lucky Robby the Robot is always at hand to lob a phaser on the floor when the worst happens.
So much for the features, but what do they add up to? Hmmmm, well for sure if you liked the original game, Xenophobe is an essential purchase for you, but to be honest, not that many people did.
The action does tend to become a little repetitive after a while and when you are playing the game in single player mode (even with different difficulty levels), here the enjoyment does get little bit thin after blowing away your 1056th room of alien beings.
Microprose have made a creditable job of converting what was only a middling coin-op title, and 'though they score 10 out of 10 for that, they start at a great disadvantage in the playability stakes compared to some of the sexier titles out on the streets right now.
Reviewer: Timothy Noonan
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