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Written by ST Graveyard

November 15, 2002


I was thinking of making this the first review without introduction, but I couldn't help myself. Does it actually need an introduction? Probably not. I think every shoot 'em up fan has played Xenon. But anyway, here is a brief history on the game.

Xenon was the first release by the great Bitmap Brothers. It was the first game that really showed what could be done with the 16-bit machines, and it launched the Bitmaps as a quality development team, delivering fantastic graphics and sound.

By the time of its release in 1988, the ST already had a great shoot 'em up, "Goldrunner". But Xenon was something completely different, adding more variety to the genre. And even though this piece of gaming software is almost 15 years old, it can easily be considered among the best of its type! When you load up the game you soon notice why this release stormed up the UK game Top 40 at the time!


Even though this was the Bitmaps debut game, they immediately hit the jackpot! Very slick and stylish graphics! The metallic look of the first level is just amazing. This is pure Bitmap quality as we are used to see from them.


A superb soundtrack by the master himself (Whittaker). This one will stick with you forever. I think it's one of the best known game tunes in history. The game also features some sampled voices and other cool shooting effects. Great stuff.


It might be a bit weird to write a review of this game, since I haven't even seen half of it. Too bad, cause I've been playing this one all my life. It was one of the first I ever got on the ST. Still, I'm gonna tell you what I've seen of it so far.

Xenon is not just your ordinary vertical shooter, this one has some great original features to it. You have the option of driving around in a slow, armoured vehicle or to fly in an (almost equally slow) fighter. And you can switch between these two craft during gameplay by pressing the space button. This feature adds a lot to the gameplay!

The slow tank is used to shoot the squirreling ground targets. This mode is actually more difficult than the aircraft mode, in which you can fly straight over certain enemies, turrets or buildings without getting trapped! Why would you use the tank then, you ask? well, some of those crawling baddies leave some nice bonus features behind when they are killed, and this can only be done with the tank, so its up to you!

Keep in mind that Xenon is not a fast paced shooter like Goldrunner, this one is a lot slower. In tank mode you can actually decide at which speed you want to go (to a certain level). And it's also possible to go in the opposite direction whenever you feel like it, adding even more freedom to the gameplay! These are other advantages over the Aircraft mode!

Bonus items are represented by a letter. If you manage to grab one, you might be so lucky to upgrade your craft with extra firepower, laser cannons, sideshots, heat-seekers and more. As in the sequel, there are boss enemies to overcome! Every level in this game is divided into two sectors, and the end of each sector is guarded by such a boss creature. Xenon features 4 different levels in total.

Controls are very good. You control the craft using the joystick, and the spacebar to morph into one of the two crafts. That's all there is to it! The problem with this game is that the ST version is way too hard, in my opinion.

Once I completed the first level, I'm able to play for just a few seconds in level two before getting killed. This level is more of the traditional shoot' em up style as you're not able to change to tank mode. But the screen is just infested with enemy activity. It might just be me, but I always found this to be extremely frustrating, as I would have loved to see more of this game. The second level looked promising...


Xenon can easily be considered as the mother of the 16-bit shooters. It looks beautiful, it sounds cool and it plays great in the first level. After that, all hell breaks lose and the game starts to become unplayable for me. It's just extremely difficult. Don't let that ruin it though, I'm sure it's passable with practice. So this one is recommended for the hardcore shooters among us who can handle the amount of frustration!

  • Graphics: 9
  • Sound: 8
  • Gameplay: 6
  • Overall: 7

Review Comments

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Zone Warrior

February 12, 2023 by AtariCrypt

Once again, pesky aliens are giving us Earthlings lots of grief. We previously fought them off but they managed to pinch a time machine so are using that to alter history and wreak havoc by taking crucial hostages from each period in an attempt to halt their influence. From the invention of the wheel in prehistoric times to England's King Arthur uniting Britain! And where would any of us be today without Japan and its technical wizardry? Yep, we cannot allow this - the fight is on!

Son Shu Shi

March 21, 2021 by ST Graveyard

What an accomplishment this game is. Created with such a small team, the result is really amazing. The game oozes creative passion. While the gameplay is really well balanced, it is a tough cookie, very hard from time to time with its moments of sheer frustration. As of level 3, timing becomes key. You will need to practice and learn the levels to complete this game, there are so many bad guys on screen it sometimes gets a bit hard to take.

Blood Money

April 4, 2020 by Morcar

Graphically, it's also nice on the eyes with well-defined graphics and animation. You really get the feeling that the developers put some thought and love into the game. Remember what I said about the large levels? Well these are wonderful and are very different to each other, they also scroll fairly smooth in all four directions.

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