Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-10-17 Xbox Shooter T (Teen) Evolved Games / Playlogic

Arcade shooters are not dead, they are just being overlooked at this point in gaming. Xyanide was originally a N-Gage game later released on GBA and mobile platforms. After over two years under development, Xyanide finally arrives on the Xbox systems of North American users.

Unlike other games of the genre which offer very little in terms of a storyline, Xyanide begins with a lenghty and strong cinematic that sets the scenario.

A young girl is tried and convicted at a sort of space-age judicial meeting. Her name is Aguira, and her child-like appearance has nothing of innocent. This witch is guilty of all sorts of crimes and atrocities. The Judges of Mardar sentence her to death by disintegration, but to carry on the sentence they call upon a pilot to take her into the maelstrom where she is to be executed.

On the way to the maelstrom, the ship collides with an asteroid rich in Xyanide, a powerful mineral that can make thoughts materialize. Taking advantage of the situation, Aquira conjures up a series of worlds from which you must find your way out to stop the evil witch and eventually carry out her sentence.

The game is presented in a third-person view. You, as the pilot, find yourself in a ship, zooming through corridors and small spaces, while a series of enemies come at you from all directions.

You navigate by using the left thumbstick and control your weapons with the right thumbstick, so you can move one way and shoot another way. The ship has two weapons (you can switch between them by using the right trigger): one is particularly good for smaller enemies since it spreads the shots, the other is a beam that is very effective on big targets. Weapons can also mutate by using Xyanide, which certain enemies can drop, and they can mutate into organic or mechanic (or a mix of both).

The path your ship takes is pretty much pre-set, aside from a few instances where you can pick which way to go, but don't think this plays like a side-scrolling 2D shooter. Well, maybe at it's core, it somewhat does, but when the camera changes from front to back or a side view right in the middle of frantic combat, you are in for some unique experience.

There is also so much going on at the same time: colorful scrolling backgrounds, moving objects and tons of enemies trying to get you. Add to that a camera shift and you have a recipe for disorientation. It's intense and it often becomes overwhelming, but that's why continues exist, though not in abundance.

Every so often you encounter boss fights that make you feel so insignificant by their overpowering presence. They look like some sort of space stations and take quite a while to defeat.

Xyanide also has a two-player co-op mode that can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately makes both players share the number of available credits. For those with a competitive edge, you can compare your scores to others' in the online leaderboard.

On to the graphical aspect of the game. Xyanide is a very colorful and vibrant game presented in full 3D. Most impressive is the initial cut-scene, where you can see high-quality textures and a very different style of art and colors. It's very well presented and I quite liked it. The game stages are also varied (although not right away) and you will see your ship flying through both mechanic and organic worlds with their own distinct sets of enemies.

Sound-wise, the effects don't vary much from shots and explosions, but the techno soundtrack is pretty cool. And if you don't like it, you can always pop in your custom soundtrack.

Xyanide offers a different take on arcade shooters, but it still has that classic feel to it. Once you get used to the quick camera changes and the constant fast-paced chaotic action, you will be completely sucked in by it. It's a very challenging game, hard to master, and doesn't feel like the budget title it is.

If you would like to try it out, there is a PC demo available at Overloaded.com. And if you want more Xyanide after that, you might like to know that a PSP version is in the works for early 2007.

Special thanks to Michael Bellhorn and Evolve Games for providing a copy of this title.