Amstrad Action1st September 1987
Published in Amstrad Action #24
Raffaele Cecco may not be a familiar name to you, but if I tell you he wrote Equinox from Mikro-Gen, you'll know he's building quite a reputation for great games. His latest, Exolon, is released by Hewson and should be an enormous success.
The hallmark of Equinox was a combination of brilliant graphics and fascinating gameplay. This is repeated here but in a completely different type of game. It's an unadulterated bomb-bullet-and-blast'em game across 125 screens of action. It's split into five zones of 25 screens each. You have to make your way from left to right across the screens, and once off the edge of one screen there's no going back.
The character you control has two weapons and two fighting modes to destroy the deadly alien forces. The weapons are a missile launcher on your back and a blaster. The missiles arc out in front of you to destroy larger obstacles in your path, and the blaster shoots straight in front of you to kill the smaller alien forces.
The first alien you come across is a large piece of artillery that fires off single shots at you. You have to duck underneath its bullets and loose off a missile that will shatter the gun into a myriad of flying pieces. The explosions really are something else - chunks of alien equipment flying all over the screen.
The gun is followed by a few more large but harmless obstacles. Then the fun really starts. Aliens will start flying on from the right *> of the screen, in movement patterns that wobble up and down, circle around or accelerate towards you. The blaster can zap them, but their constant height changes will often force you to leap up and down to get them They will keep coming at you until you near the right-hand edge of the screen.
The way the aliens stop when you get near the edge of the screen is a measure of the thought that's gone into the gameplay: it means you don't get surprise deaths from things appearing just as you're about to move off screen.
A particularly malevolent alien is the birth-pod: a large sphere full of wriggling objects. When you missile it, it releases a horde of red spheres which have to be quickly zapped with the blaster before they disperse.
Missile launchers are tricky because they launch shells straight at you, which have to be shot by the blaster. They come on two levels, so you have to duck and stand up very rapidly as you advance on it. This is another instance where the shells stop coming as you get close, in order to give you a fair chance.
One of the nastiest dangers is the guided-missile module. This sends a missile after you as soon as you appear on screen. You can sometimes avoid the missile, but the best solution is to destroy the guidance module with your own missile as fast as possible. There are many other dangers including land mines, combined guns and launchers, and hammers that appear from the floor.That little lot gives you plenty of trouble, not helped by your limited supplies of both bullets and missiles. The layout of the screen can also be awkward, forcing you to jump over things or choose between two possible levels to proceed forward. You get between platform levels by means of teleporters - which can also come in handy for getting you out of trouble.
The news is not all bad. There are plenty of replenishment units for the blaster and missiles to keep your blasting ability going. Each of the five sections also has a module where you can put on an Exoskeleton. This gives you a double blaster and makes you invulnerable to things like land mines and hammers. However, if you use it you dont get a bravery bonus at the end of the section.
The graphics can't be praised highly enough. As well as the explosions there's good animation, marvellously designed objects and screens and excellent use of colour. The gamepiay is compulsive and needs constant concentration to survive. You'll not only marvel about how this game looks but you'll be totally hooked by the action.
Just eyeing the graphics tells you you're in for a winner - superb. Loads of breathtaking scenery, the best explosions around, fancy sound-effects... and it's highly playable. My kind of game: blast anything and everything!
Green Screen View
Sho-sho-shoot it up. 'Cause it's all visible.
First Day Target Score
P. The meatiest explosions you've ever seen!
P. Superb use of colour and animation.
P. An okay title tune and effects.
Grab Factor 95%
P. Addictive and challenging gameplay.
P. Good variety of opponents and obstacles.
Staying Power 92%
P. 125 screens to get through.
N. Not much thought or strategy required.
P. Worth buying just for the graphics!