Xotic ReviewPublisher: WXP Games
UK Price (as reviewed): £5.99 Inc. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $8.99 Excl. Tax
What in the name of Wendel's joystick was that
? It's not an enemy, is it? Am I supposed to be shooting it - why am I flying suddenly? I guess I'll try and shoot it but... where's my shotgun gone?
This is what Xotic is like; confusion, bewilderment and a constant battle against the very systems which you suspect are intended to support you. Like a slide covered with a non-slip mat, Xotic's intention clashes with it's implementation.
Essentially an ultra-arcade shooter, more racer and puzzler than genuine FPS, Xotic's strengths are the speed and handling nuances with which it presents itself. Each level tasks you with destroying all enemies and alien objects in arenas of gradually increasing complexity, nabbing power-ups on the way to make your mission easier; flight boosts, hologram batteries and score multipliers. Dodging and darting across the map to collect these items, blasting enemies on the way isn't easy at first, but that means it's all the more rewarding when you master the nuances - such as placing hard holograms beneath you feet mid-jump, to up your height.
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These are Xotic's strengths - the speed it offers to those with the finesse to handle it, the new challenges drawn out from old game tropes. You're forever against the clock, so what's the optimum route through the level and how feasible is it to achieve?
While Xotic is a speed-runners dream however, it's also held back by the bewildering complexity with which it presents itself. What's clearly meant to be a very straightforward game gets bogged down with a baffling story about an alien orb that's infected the universe and the natural force that springs up to defeat it, with the various game systems corrupted by this influence.
Your weapons, for example, are all bolted on to one organic construct - so you only really have one weapon with multiple modes, rather than multiple weapons. It's a fine idea and one we've seen done well elsewhere, but here there isn't enough distinction between the modes and nuances - such as the way Mouse Wheel Up scrolls primary modes and Mouse Wheel Down scrolls secondaries - make it hard to master your arsenal. Too often you'll reach for your shotgun and find your rocket launcher, only then to find that neither will work because all weapons pull from a regenerating pool of universal ammo and have varying energy requirements.
Saying that this is more complex than it needs to be seems like an understatement; it's a distraction which actively detracts from the game, especially for those early hours when you're still learning the ropes.
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The most decisive disadvantage Xotic faces however are it's strange visuals, which are at once both a strength and a weakness. Colourful and bold, Xotic is a living cartoon that stands out from modern shooters like a tank in a haystack, glorious and proud. Equally though, the graphical quality isn't phenomenal and that's especially obvious when you're facing off against the orb-spewed enemies who populate the game - block, untextured and crude.
More than that though, there's too much variation seeded into Xotic's artistry and the four worlds the core campaign is set across, with each one having new objects to destroy and increasingly convoluted terrain that, while not an issue in itself, compounds the problems of an expanding arsenal. The net result is that moving to a new set of levels can feel like having to re-learn the entire game.
These faults aren't enough to spoil the game, as Xotic still retains a moreish, arcade charm despite the excesses of the design team and patience is all that's really needed to unlock an extra level of fun. The fact that Xotic's primary appeal gets so lost is enough to take the score and accessibility down a peg or to though.