Xenon is a vertical shoot 'em up game developed for the arcades by The Bitmap Brothers in 1988. The game was converted to the Commodore Amiga (OCS/ECS), Atari ST, PC (DOS), ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and MSX home computers.
STORY / GAMEPLAY The human colonies are under attack by a mysterious and violent alien species called "The Xenites" (probably originating from planet Xenon). Now it's time for you (a pilot named Darrian) to take action, defend your colony and engage the attackers in battle with your transforming weapon (a vehicle that can be used either as an aircraft or as a kind of a battle tank)! This transformation is quite unique for its time but it seems that it's effecting the gameplay quite a bit, as the game is an arcade shooter and when transforming (from air to ground) it slows down the action; a fact that can sometimes become frustrating. The transformation between these two different vehicles can be triggered almost at any time of the game (except during the mid and the end of any level boss sections). Along the way there are several power-ups available to collect, necessary for destroying particular enemy structures or even battleships (plus the intelligent bosses in every level.)
GRAPHICS / SOUND I liked the graphics on the ZX's detailed landscapes but they are limited to its 8 color-palette. Actually the colors picked are mainly based in blue and black so the game looks identical to the MSX version (although the MSX display hardware could give more). The action is fast with a few framerate problems when many sprites attack simultaneously. Also the color-clash problem on the ZX display hardware makes the game quite difficult to avoid enemy fire when too much ground detail fills the screen. The game's sound and music are equally effective; there is a spot effect for every single bullet and explosion. The Xenon's great music score is unfortunately available only for the 128k Spectrums and it fits well to the game's atmosphere (a real joy to listen) but one channel is reserved for the SFX thus only two channels are left for the music (3 channels supported in total from the AY-3-8910 sound generator of the ZX, also found on the CPC and the later MSX computers).
GAMEPLAY SAMPLE VIDEO
On our video below you may watch the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and Arcade (Arcadia Systems' Amiga based) versions of the game. The ZX Spectrum version is at 00:20.
CPU: Z80 @ 3.5 MHz MEMORY: 16 KB / 48 KB / 128 KB GRAPHICS: Video output is through an RF modulator and was designed for use with contemporary portable television sets, for a simple colour graphic display. Features a palette of 15 shades: seven colours at two levels of brightness each, plus black. The image resolution is 256x192 with the same colour limitations. SOUND: Early models (48k) had sound output through a beeper on the machine itself. This is capable of producing one channel with 10 octaves. Late models (128k) fetured a three-channel audio via the AY-3-8912 chip, MIDI compatibility