Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Specvent Calendar Day 17 - Xeno

Xeno (A'n'F, 1986)

Xeno is another of the set of games I discovered while at university, I think from a marked-down original, as I know I paid a budget price but I don't remember it coming out as a budget re-release  It's the Sports Game Redux, most closely resembling a cross between Subbuteo and Air Hockey, though playing like neither. It's just your giant vitamin tablet against your opponent's giant vitamin tablet in a quest for goals.

Seriously, though this is just a great game. You control your puck by choosing a destination point, which will probably (though not always) want to intersect the ball along the way. It's turn-based, so as soon as your puck is in motion the oppenent (human or CPU) starts his move selection, and so on. As you play, you start to learn some of the angles and rebounds you can use to your advantage - I even remembered some of them tonight, winning the above game 7-3. Even though movement selection is not simultaneous, if you're quick and can anticipate your opponent's move, you can even try to intercept the ball in motion.

Another stand-out feature is the wide variety of options:

A game that offers redefinable keys is already off to a good start, though to be fair by 1986 most did. What sets Xeno apart, though, is the selectable quarter length (1-9 minutes) and much more significantly the selectable timeout (0-9 seconds.) This really alters the feel of the game - set it to 0 and you've pretty much got an arcade game with both pucks constantly in motion. Set it to 9 and you've got a leisurely strategy game as you try to select the perfect shot (though a 'fire' button lets you still react instantly should the need arise.)

80%+ reviews all round (except for C&VG which seemed to miss the whole point of the game by complaining that you can't just control your puck directly) suggest the game was well received at the time, and it's one of those rare gems that plays just as well today.

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