Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: November 8th, 2016
Developer/Publisher: 10tons Ltd
Xenoraid is a space shootem' up game (shmup) that takes a different approach to most games in its genre. This has been the M.O. of 10tons lately with all of their games, as they tend to target hardcore fans of the game's genre as well as casual fans with their twists on the game. Xenoraid is no stranger to this formula, and puts players at the helm of some interesting gameplay with a story standard to the genre. As most space shmups go, Earth is threatened by an alien invasion and you need to stop them. How the game functions on the other hand is a different story.
In Xenoraid, you'll have the option to switch controls between four different ships assigned to each of the face buttons. Each ship can be upgraded individually with money earned from missions, repaired on their own, or you can even purchase across the board upgrades that impact all four ships simultaneously. In standard shmups, you'll simply depress the trigger button and hold it for the duration of the round while you cruise around the level. Xenoraid implements an overheat system for your primary weapon, and skilled players will use it to their advantage. You are invincible while switching ships, so overheating a weapon isn't so bad as you can simply swap out through three ships while the others cool down in order to have "unlimited" ammo.
If you remember games like the original Galaga or Space Invaders, you'll remember that the aiming system is always "full speed ahead". By this I mean that no matter which direction you move, bullets always go straight up screen. Xenoraid uses a physics engine that alters the direction of your ammo. You do have freedom to fly all over the screen, not just left to right, and your ammo will need to be aimed. Asteroids will fly across the screen which can be used offensively or defensively as they also damage the enemy.
The game's story consists of five campaigns across five separate planets. They should take you about 7 hours or so on average, slightly increased or decreased dependent upon your skill level. There is a sense of strategy to the upgrade system, as all your upgrades reset at the completion of each planet's campaign. Therefore, you'll probably want to choose the upgraded hull or cannons over the automatic repair as it only impacts one ship at a time and will just be lost once you finish the planet. The individual ship repair may be a better choice in this situation, especially considering the more difficult enemies as you progress on each planet.
All of your ships' health is cumulative across all levels of the planet. If you lose a ship at the first level of a planet, you'll need to complete the rest of the campaign with three ships. Since Xenoraid autosaves a pretty rapid pace, you'll need to restart at checkpoints or the entire campaign if you need your ship back once destroyed. This adds to the strategy portion of the upgrade system, and really ties in fans of the genre along with casual fans looking for that "little something different". Xenoraid's HUD is a scanner readout that shows you how many of each time of enemy need to be destroyed on each level. It shows you how close you are to finishing a level, as well as how to conserve some more powerful weapons for stronger enemies.
Three types of these enemies will try and blow your ship to smithereens in Xenoraid; Drones, light ships and crusaders. The drones are your standard quick hitters while light ships are slightly slower, but have a bit more powerful weapons and armor. The crusaders are equipped with magnetic shields that prevent damage until disengaged, and there are also spawn ships that constantly pump out new enemies until destroyed. Since you can tell which enemies are left in each level, you'll benefit with a strategic balance of ship swapping and weapon conservation. You'll not want to use your rocket cannons against a bunch of drones while you still have a couple of crusaders lurking about.
The survival mode in Xenoraid functions as an everlasting campaign level with endless enemies. Although it starts off slow, the enemies quickly come fast and furious with wide variety of weapons and types. Even with the ability to switch ships to avoid weapon cooldown, at a certain point the enemies became just too much to handle even with all four of my ships upgraded.
Both graphically and sound wise, Xenoraid takes the "oldie but goodie" approach. The game's backgrounds show 2D dynamic objects as your ships and enemies maneuver over them. Each tune in Xenoraid gives that techno feeling of the old 90's cell phone ringtones. A lot of shootem up games are trying to reinvent the genre with total makeovers, but Xenoraid succeeds where those fail. Strategic upgrades that actually impact the game, rapid switching ships to balance weapons and enemies along with a hybrid permadeath system throughout a campaign all make for a well rounded game rather than just a caveman like "Me hold button. Me shoot enemies".
Xenoraid is available now on Xbox One, and offers a lot of fun gameplay for its $9.99 price point. Available in both single player and up to 4 player co-op, Xenoraid offers great variety in the shootem' up genre for both hardcore fans and fans just looking for something fun to play.