Review by Matt_Bekkema

Reviewed: 09/06/06

Almost PERFECT

Shooters: the once great genre that has fallen from grace. It seems that in this day and age gamers are more interested in the amount of freedom that games can offer them rather than the abundance of frenzied fun that games like Galaga can bring. Despite that truth, the folks at Playlogic have been hard at work on one of the most intruiging Xbox games of the summer. Known simply as Xyanide, it’s a game that combines an intense science-fiction story with seriously addictive space combat, molded together by a structure that harkens back to generations gone by. We spent a good amount of time with Xyanide when it was nothing but a simple beta build, but we’ve now gotten a look at the final version and are ready to say whether the game flourishes or flounders.

Gameplay

The beginning cinematic of Xyanide lays out the storyline with great success. It paints a picture of some sort of judicial meeting, passing judgment on a seemingly innocent child known only as the Scourge of Mardar. She has apparently committed several heinous crimes, the nature of which is unspeakable. The demon seed must be transpoted into the maelstrom, and thus into eternal damnation. Of course the not-so-unthinkable happens and a meteor crashes into the Scourge of Mardar’s transport, not only setting her free, but also introducing an alien substance known as Xyanide to the ill-intentioned tot. Apparently the resource allows the carrier to conjure thoughts into reality. For someone who has already committed acts resulting in unthinkable disaster, it might be best to separate the two posthaste. That’s where Drake and his tiny little warship come into play.
Essentially Xyanide is like a next-generation version of classic, top-down shooters. Players control the ship with the left stick, and use the right to aim the ship’s fire. It feels a bit similar to playing the Xbox 360’s Geometry Wars in that aiming isn’t hampered by constant movement, so long as you can keep one eye on your ship and the other finding enemy targets. Level progression is handled largely by the game engine as the ship that you’re piloting is constantly moving forward or taking turns around the environment. There are even times when the game presents you with two paths, and you’ll have to choose the better route. Even though it’s usually nothing more than turning either left or right, there’s still some element of choice in the game. You can maneuver your ship around the screen, but the background is constantly changing and presenting new baddies to explode. Occasionally there will be battle stations attached to the background that you’ll have to destroy, all the while avoiding the fleets of flying ships that are constantly coming at you. There’s plenty of challenge to be had in Xyanide, and luckily the difficulty settings are broken up into five levels so most players will be able to find a level of play that allows for consistent progression.

Helping you along your way are the pick-ups that some enemies leave behind. Mutators are orange glowing objects that essentially level up your fighter. Lives are yellow orbs that will need to be collected as death is something that Xyanide provides plenty of. Power-ups are pink orbs that upgrade alter the fighter’s abilities. As you continue to collect mutators you’ll gain more, and even more powerful, specials. The specials are divided into offensive, defensive, shielding, and support categories. Offensive and defensive are basically what you’d expect, with shielding and support providing your ship with a deflective shield and a supposed escape to the onslaught respectively. As you level up your ship, your powers will continue to increase, thus increasing each of the four types of specials. Figuring out how to truly utilize your ship and its powers can be a little tricky unless you have the time to wade through the instruction manual.

The real fun of the game comes in once you get a friend in on the action. The two-player co-op mode is tons of fun, and proves to be much more engaging than when playing alone. Despite the cool opportunities that the specials system provides, the game’s six levels start melding together after awhile, and the thrill of killing tons of spacecrafts wears a little thin. While there is no multiplayer support through Xbox Live, Live Aware is fully intact so you’ll at least be able to see who’s online and what they’re playing. It would have added tons of value to Xyanide if they had allowed to players to sync up and play through the levels over Xbox Live, but local co-op play will just have to suffice.

Overall Gameplay Impressions

Xyanide turns out to be a pleasant surprise when things are said and done. The value of the game is easily over its twenty-dollar price tag, and fans of the classic genre will find plenty to enjoy. Throw in the fact that Playlogic has tried to innovate the game beyond what other shooters have offered, and Xyanide turns out to be a nice surprise for the summer months. Its plot is at least interesting enough to keep you going through the six levels, even if the gameplay can get a bit stale. For a few hours of fun for you and a friend, you can do a lot worse than Xyanide.

Graphics and Audio

The opening cinematic in Xyanide is easily the most attractive scene in the game. The in-game visuals may not disappoint, but they certainly don’t impress either. The enemy models are fairly nondescript, and while some are impressive in their size, the visual detail never really moves beyond par for the Xbox. The boss battles pit your tiny little ship against some impressive enemy structures, and it’s tons of fun picking them apart bit by bit. The special effects on the high-level specials can impress too. On the audio side there really isn’t much beyond the sound of explosions and gunfire, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Things stay exciting thanks to the techno soundtrack which fits the futuristic feel of Xyanide perfectly.

The Bottom Line

Xyanide may not be the highest profile title released this summer, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide for a good amount of fun. Those who steer clear of shoot-‘em-ups probably will want to do the same here, but for those who have been yearning for a classic feeling Xbox game, Xyanide may well be the answer. The visuals may not be stunning, and the audio won’t put any surround sound system through its paces, but Xyanide still packs some nice punch, especially when playing with a friend.


Rating:   3.5 - Good

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