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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Review - Xenon 2

Review - Xenon 2

Posted by Rob Gibson on 00:00, 30/10/2000 | , ,
Xenon 2


GamesWare's vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up for one or two players. Reviewed by Rob Gibson.

Note: This review was originally written for the Illusions disc magazine well before Acorn Arcade was born, so we make no guarantees that this game will work on more recent machines. Many thanks to Richard Goodwin, Phil Coleman and Rob Gibson for allowing us to reproduce this review on the site.

Like an Intercity express train the promised glut of 16-bit conversions finally seems to be appearing at this platform, a little late (try two or three years), but better late than never much to the relief of the paying punters that have been standing around waiting with only the Arc equivalent of Traveller's Fare to keep them going. Although there have been conversions in the past, the most notable amongst them being SWIV, Chuck Rock, James Pond, that other Bitmap Bros. conversion Gods etc., the coming of Xenon 2 looks likely to herald the start of a veritable feeding-frenzy of activity in companies around the country bringing us the cream of the crop of Amiga games.

It becomes evident that this is no ordinary conversion as soon as you double-click to load it. Up pops a sprite onto the desktop informing you that the game is indeed loading, a la Impression II, StrongEd2, The Hacker etc. After this the game installs itself on the iconbar, and you can jump in and out of the game as often as you please, although your position is lost and when you re-enter you have to start from the beginning again. It's a nice touch, and makes you feel as if you're dealing with professionals here, people who actually understand the Arc and can bring out it's full potential.

After clicking on the big blue space ship sitting at the bottom of the screen, the disk chugs away for a few seconds and as the credits fly (fairly) smoothly in and out of a face-on starfield effect, the strains of Bomb the Bass's funky tune 'Megablast' (which by a strange coincidence is the subtitle of the game) blasts out in glorious stereophonic sound. This rendition, although lacking some of the voice samples of the original (ie non-computer) version, is still of high quality; I was told that the Amiga actually used BTB's own samples, and on the conversion they certainly sound very true to both these previous formats. The tune plays over not only the credits at the start, but the game itself, and one over on the Amiga owners here, the full version is played throughout, whereas the poor half-Meg Commodore machine had to have the samples further reduced for the actual game tune. The tune can get a bit wearing even for a BTB fan like myself after a bit, and the options screen, which is just a keypress away from the credits, allows you to turn it off.

And so on to the game itself. The graphics are all that you've come to expect from the hype surrounding both the Amiga in general and the Bitmap Brothers in particular. Your ship, which travels upwards as in SWIV etc., tilts as you move sideways; thrusters burn as you move up or down; and when moving down, if you hit the bottom of the screen, the scrolling actually reverses and you go backwards. Beneath the rocks that border the screen scrolls two levels of parallax, namely a web of plantlife (amazing what can be achieved in just three colours) and a starfield effect. The rest of the graphics for this level look like the contents of a biology student's dreams the night before an important exam; this nightmarish world is inhabited by all manner of pulsating plants and rotating bugs, every one with atmospheric light sourcing. Spinning tokens and powerups, an oft-used Bitmap technique (see Speedball 2 when it comes out), are heavily featured also.

These graphics are achieved in the 16 colour mode 9.
Answers on a postcard as to why the 256 colour
Arc games don't even come close.


There are two ways of getting those all-important extras for your ship. The first are the crates that spin in from the left-hand side of the screen, which, when shot, reveal certain gifts such as speedups, rear fire, smart bomb etc. Secondly, as you kill more and more meanies, you can collect bubbles which are converted into cash for when you reach the shop; there's no warning as to when this happens, it just does, and you get to remember the area this occurs in.

"And as if by magic, the shopkeeper appears..."
Mr. Benn finds that those mushrooms
he had for tea last night might
not have been as harmless as they looked.


The shop is not only for buying new equipment, but for flogging off the old stuff as well. The best purchase was the "Nashwan", a short (10 second) taste of the complete works, every weapon available. This basically wipes out anything stupid enough to appear on the screen almost as effectively as a smart bomb, and is a great appetiser for the rest of the game.

Nashwan: makes Rambo look like Noddy.


And now for the obligatory moans. I found the game a little tough, as the ship is quite slow-moving and you have to fight the controls a little even with both speedups; this is not the conversion's fault, quite the reverse, it is a faithful copy of the original (too damn faithful!). Hence, this is not the sort of game you give to a younger child to keep them quiet, as they'd soon be bawling about how they got killed two seconds after the "Get ready" message disappeared. Perhaps it's just a little late in the day to be thinking of this, but I think the game should have an easier learning curve; let's face it, I couldn't get to the end of the level without designing a cheat mod, and there are four more levels to negotiate. However, if you like a challenge, you're in for a treat. Also, there are a few concessions to duffers like me; for instance, it is possible to hit the scenery at the sides without penalty, although it is equally possible to get stuck on a rock as several meanies come crashing towards you; when negotiating the maze-like rock formations, if you make a wrong turn it's always possible to back up as mentioned before. It takes some practice, but it is playable. Most of all, however, it's the sheer style that makes this game a must for the collection.

Certain Inferior Software
houses should take note:
this is a well-drawn end of level meanie.


It's hard, so not really for youngsters or beginners. It is extremely attractive however, and a very nice implementation; for example, the tracker player would crash if an old version of the VProtect module is present, so the game asks whether to switch off the module or abort the load. Also, it has A3010 joystick implementation built in. It won't however run on a StrongARM machine and there are other bugs to be aware of on earlier versions. Generally though, definitely a prestige item in the old collection.

  Review - Xenon 2
  This is a long thread. Click here to view the threaded list.
George A. Henderson Message #87981, posted by George at 09:11, 18/12/2001
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ben Message #87982, posted at 18:00, 18/1/2002, in reply to message #87981
Unregistered user great game. i was hooked to it back in the 80s.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Jerry Message #87983, posted by Jerry at 16:11, 27/1/2002, in reply to message #87982
Member When I played this game in 1991 I discovered the terrible truth after finally reaching the end of level 4: 'Insert new disc'!

Never seen it; never found it.

Does this disc exist? Is there such a thing as a 'level 5'?

Please post a comment or email me. Thanks!


  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Danny Message #87984, posted at 13:43, 6/2/2002, in reply to message #87983
Unregistered user For about year I played this game every weekday after work from about 8pm - 3am, and about 9 hours a day at weekends.

I was exhausted at work - but hey - this is far-and-away the best game I've ever seen.

I'm a programmer, so I appreciate some of the effort and expertise behind it.

I've got 3 kids now (i didn't then) - and the oldest, Nick loves it as well.....

...incidentally I completed it !

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Joel Snape Message #87985, posted by Joel at 14:40, 26/2/2002, in reply to message #87984
Posts: 1
this game is the best game...
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Eyal Kaduri Message #87986, posted at 10:53, 27/2/2002, in reply to message #87985
Unregistered user This is the most memorable game i've ever played on my old PC, its lack of save options or password forced me to come back for more until the great end ( and what an end it was - no cheats! ) the graphics just became better and better ( gorgeous till this very day ) - thing is its music was PC Speaker music and damn repetitive, but it was worth IT!!! - gotta love Bitmap BROS - also played to the end - GODS and MAGIC POckets ( Speed ball and CHAOS engine didnt run well on my pc back then )
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Sorin Message #87987, posted at 03:08, 7/3/2002, in reply to message #87986
Unregistered user 2Were can I find XENON2 ? Please send me a mail..
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Ender Message #87988, posted at 12:22, 9/3/2002, in reply to message #87987
Unregistered user At the end of the 80s a friend of mine had an Amiga. When I saw this game I thought: "wow, I want an amiga as well!". Unfortunately I didn't have the money at that time. I still know how dissapointed I was not having this game to play!
A few years later my dad bought a PC. Very soon after that I bought Xenon 2 for the PC! Finally I could play hours after hours this great game. One of my most favorite games ever. I wonder if Xenon 3 ever comes out. I will be first in line to buy this game :)
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NIKIAS Message #87989, posted at 11:52, 28/3/2002, in reply to message #87988
Unregistered user THE GREATEST GAME EVER!the day i finished it i wake up and got a feeling"play and finish xenon2"and i did it. Unfortunately my father recycle it:(.When i finish it i was alone and the allien said"i hope that there was viewers" wasnt!!!! and then i thing the pc broke and shows black with a white pixel in the middle! I lost the end ,if there was an end, i just saw the allien.i wonder if there is something else but i got not the game.I ll find it! and try again.
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Florian Message #87990, posted at 21:36, 14/4/2002, in reply to message #87989
Unregistered user I really want to play this game because I've played it 10 years ago and I remember I enjoyed it a lot.
Unfortunately I dont know where to get it from so please send me an e-mail if you know any good sites.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
shad (hey - my name is Fl Message #87991, posted at 14:46, 15/4/2002, in reply to message #87990
Unregistered user Xenon Assrocked everything !
I can remember how i played this game with the age of 9 years (im20now) !!! My father brought it for my old 286 and i played it for years !!
Yeha and this muuuusic !!! I always heard the melody in my memorys.. ( only that of the PC speaker ). And i could never recall the Whole melody .. since i found XENON2 on the web 2day
Lets start a Xenon 2 Fanclub and lets get a MEGABLAST-tatto on our Asses :)
DOWNLOAD XENON HERE NEWHERE http://oldgames.bgbest.net/
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shad Message #87992, posted at 14:50, 15/4/2002, in reply to message #87991
Unregistered user otherwise mail me for xenon ;)
Its just 350k or something so an email is not that impossible
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G Message #87993, posted at 16:59, 30/4/2002, in reply to message #87992
Unregistered user can you just play xenon on windows 2000?
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Joss Message #87994, posted at 04:00, 8/5/2002, in reply to message #87993
Unregistered user Just played it on WinXP - all fine.
But...i'm also rest on "insert other disk" message. Is there any "other disks"?
Mail me if any, eh?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
elcano Message #87995, posted at 05:05, 15/5/2002, in reply to message #87994
Unregistered user I think I remember the cheat for invulnerabilty on the dos version. When selecting the Video mode (VGA - Tandy etc) press F7.. then when it goes blank and loads you have to hold down (this is where my memory fades a little) the keys, k, l and m.. I think.. or was there a J in there? J, L and M? hmm.. either way.. gets you full invunlerabilty.. and whats more, I have finished it as well for the folk who have only the first disk. You eventually have to battle a super big robot spaceship thing. pretty easy with super lasers and a mine.


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Message #87996, posted at 21:21, 22/10/2002, in reply to message #87995
Unregistered user heres the download

slow but worth it ;)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Jimmy C Message #87997, posted at 00:16, 7/12/2002, in reply to message #87996
Unregistered user Can I just say how heroish this game was is still is. Me and my wee bro completed it (one ruining the space bar and the other steering) back on our 286 years ago. I thought woah, graphics and amazing explosions. Even now theres still something about it which nothing can compare to. It's a legend which you can only look back at with a big grin.
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Acid Message #87998, posted at 10:26, 15/12/2002, in reply to message #87997
Unregistered user yeah that's a great website.

Have Been searching for XENON2 for more than 3 years because my distribution is demolished, it has a grafics fault in the shop ... but with you help i got a new download address ... thanks a lot for your support, hosting such a website with great pool of old games. If I can support in any way I'll help you in webdesign matters. Because I'm a webdesigner too. Please contact me for further information.
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Acid Message #87999, posted at 10:42, 15/12/2002, in reply to message #87998
Unregistered user having problems downloading xenon2 from http://oldgames.bgbest.net/search.php?&search=xenon

could you please help me sending me this great value by an email???

would be great thanks a lot ...
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Please Send Message #88000, posted at 07:41, 19/12/2002, in reply to message #87999
Unregistered user Where can i get Xenon2 please tell me or email me
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
sed Message #88001, posted at 08:32, 1/1/2003, in reply to message #88000
Unregistered user hey shad,
same thing
i was about 9
my father got the game for me
i was CRAZY about it.
today is new year's eve, i was on the train getting home, and suddenly i remembered this game, and thought what a warm homely feeling it would give me to play it again this very night. im 22 now.
well i did a simple search and got the game, just played it. it's incredible. amazing what a 'puny' 340 kb can do. now we need gigabytes, but they don't quite do the trick hehe.
let's tatoo it on our asses... :D
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cameron wallace Message #88002, posted at 18:04, 12/1/2003, in reply to message #88001
Unregistered user I was just looking up on google thinking about all the old games i used to play (on dos) when i was 5 or 6 (I'm now 14). Such a great game, but my age prevented me from getting to those grey worms. They looked so cool (my brother then was 8 or 9). I had original xenon so you had to switch off the computer (a 386) to quit.
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Sharazade Message #88003, posted at 13:00, 21/1/2003, in reply to message #88002
Unregistered user Xenon 2 is, by far, the best scrolling shoot'em'up I've played, both ten years back and now, and one of the best games I've ever played. It surely deserves a tattoo! (I'll do mine when I see yours)

Ok, now to serious things:

You can find many copies of Xenon II on the web, just search on google, ready to download and play, or I can send you one (mail me). This game is now real abandonware, so I don't think the authors will really mind if we share it.

The cheat code (for DOS, as I know) is actually the following: In the graphic mode selection screen, validate with F7 instead of enter and, once in the game (playing) press I to activate invulnerability. It is a switch, so you can turn it on and off with the I key.

Finally, something many of you may like to hear: The Bitmaps Brothers are working (last news from 2002) on (fanfarre) XENON 2000 (tada!). Yep, and it looks pretty good. You can check some images and download a demo at www.bitmap-brothers.co.uk
Look at the Download section, and there are some pages devoted to Xenon, Xenon 2 and Xenon 2000. The Download is around 15 MB, and I have not tried it yet because I don't have connection at home, but will soon.

Hope you enjoy them,
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
DelTreme Message #88004, posted at 22:17, 23/1/2003, in reply to message #88003
Unregistered user Got the 'insert other disk' message on Win2K before lvl1 starts... Aargh this used to be the best game I ever played, now I've got it again but it doesn't work!
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
DelTreme Message #88005, posted at 22:23, 23/1/2003, in reply to message #88004
Unregistered user By the way, found a page that says the cheat is F7 - I
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
scavenger Message #88006, posted at 14:33, 9/2/2003, in reply to message #88005
Unregistered user for invunverability you have to press the "F7" key when you have to decide the graphics mode.
ingame you press "I" :)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Dragon Message #88007, posted at 20:26, 5/3/2003, in reply to message #88006
Unregistered user can some send me the PC version of this game
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Dwight Message #88008, posted at 08:28, 20/3/2003, in reply to message #88007
Unregistered user I loved this game, and games like it... does anybody know where to find games like it such as "Raptor call of shadows".
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Marcel Message #88009, posted at 11:01, 12/5/2003, in reply to message #88008
Unregistered user can anyone send me xenon2 by mail? i've been looking every where, but can't find it... It's such a great game... please please please???!!!
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Xenon2-adorer Message #88010, posted at 15:34, 14/5/2003, in reply to message #88009
Unregistered user Really loved this game!
I heard of a new xenon version. Xenon2000. Only one level available, but I think its pretty good :)
Want it? Go to the site of the bitmap brothers (if you cant find it, go to a search machine and search for 'the bitmap brothers'. Then look for project Xenon2000. They have only made one map and they havent add others in the last 2 years... I wonder if they are still working on it. I really hope so, 'cause it looks good :)
Oh... there was a Xenon2 level 4 and 5, but most of the versions of internet only have levels 1 to 3.
And the white dot in the middle of the screen after you end the game, it's like when you put your tv off.
Really good game!
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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Review - Xenon 2