Friday, April 17, 2009

Xeno Arena

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Its dark, my head hurts. I place my fingers where it hurts and it feels like blood. Where am I? A faint scurrying sound is heard in the distance, “Who’s there? Fuck, it’s so dark.” Then I remember the laser sight on Jenny, my rifle. I flick the switch and a small beam of red light cuts through the darkness. Still, I have no idea where I am, or how I got here.

The last thing I remember, having a drink at the dying dwarf, a shithole of a bar on the surface of an even shittier mining colony… Everyone was laughing, then it suddenly got quiet, something hit me in the head obviously, and now here I am.

I swing Jenny around slowly, trying to find anything that would give me a clue. There’s a bunch of metal plates stacked up against a wall. I walk closer, some writing on the side of one, Zera Mining XLC. “Shit” I mutter, I’m in the mine, but why? And how deep? Some of the miners up on top said this pit ran to the core but nobody believed them, they were always drunk. Said it helped em forget the shit they saw down here. Whatever, as long as they didn’t fuck shit up and left when they were told, I let em drink.

That scurrying sound again, but this time its louder. There was some news show on in the bar, something about them shutting down these mines, that’s why everyone laughed, this place was gonna get even worse than it already was.

“Gaava Za”

“What the fuck”

This thing jumps out of the darkness and tears into my leg. I blew it away before I could even get a good look at it. Years spent in the combat prep vats will do that to ya. Just a couple shots and it was a gooey purple mess on the floor. I don’t like things that don’t bleed red. I was on the alert now, and started looking for a way out. I knew their noises now, and blew a couple more away before they had a chance to bite.

Just keep moving, I told myself, there must be a way out. Another tunnel, but it looks like it only goes down. Time to reload.

Xeno Arena

Is this gonna be another bug hunt?

You play the role of an outer space exterminator, it’s a gauntlet clone, if you like your reviews to tell you that sort of thing. Xeno Arena has some interesting features, and some not so interesting features.

I made it to level 7 before the bugs tore my limbs off. I found the controls a bit awkward, using the triggers to cycle weapons and the bumpers to fire led me to wonder if the developers reside in some kind of bizarro universe. At any rate, not having any control configuration in this type of game borders on the unacceptable.

The graphics are nicely done though. I felt like I was in an extraterrestrial mining facility. I was helped along in my search for the exit to the next level by a minimap in the upper left corner. I think the game could stand to lose this feature though, sure you might get lost sometimes, but think of the immersion!

A lot of the screen is actually filled by the spaces between the mining tunnels, these spaces are simply a solid black. Perhaps a space rock texture or two might be inserted? The health and ammo bars are quite good however. Which brings us to the bugs, or rather the bug and its many offspring, each with a slight variation in its coloring pattern, and bodily fluid color. The latter being sprayed across the floor every time you blow one up, nice touch! For an intergalactic bug hunt, this game could definitely use some more bugs. ( note: There could very well be more bugs in this game, but I only found two species, and many varieties.)

As for the gameplay, it has “issues”. The left thumbstick moves your space marine around, so the right stick is for aiming. Unfortunately the right stick moves the camera, as well as rotating the space marine. This unfortunate situation has the possibility of inducing nausea in some people (including myself). But I hope that isn’t what the developers intended. After a bit more time with the game, I tried moving both thumbsticks at the same time. This cut down on the erratic camera a lot, but it was still there.

Your guns also come with a laser sight that traverses the length of the screen. At first it can be a nuisance, but if you can make it to the higher levels, I imagine it becomes a necessity. The bugs scamper out of the shadows so quickly, they usually got to gnaw on me for a bit before I could blast them. Perhaps if the laser’s length were shortened it wouldn’t hinder the immersion factor as much as it does currently.

The developer describes the game’s only goal as “to see how far you can delve into the 'facility' before you succumb to the relentless hoard of the Xenos” That’s a bit disheartening to say the least. Why was I even in an extraterrestrial mining facility in the first place? Am I looking for trapped miners? Or perhaps exotic metals?

In the end, I think this game could use some more development. (But you should still play it!)


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