The air is charged with burnt ozone, the blaster cannon is red hot in your hands, while in front of you lies a twisted smouldering xybot. Major Hardy casts a wry smile at you.
"The only good xybot is a dead xybot!" he mutters.
No time to rest though; there's too much metal to melt. And so off you charge into the smoke-filled corridor. "Do you feel lucky 'bot? Go ahead, make our day!"
Captain Ace Gunn and Major Rock Hardy - daft names or what?! - are raiding a xybot base. The mission is to kill the master xybot, and wreak as much havoc as possible along the way. A straight firefight is out of the question since xybotland is a confused mass of mazes and teleport systems. Stealth and tactics are more effective than brute force, but you've got to be ready to stand and blast in critical situations.
The first few levels of xybotsville are mapped out for you at the top of the screen to help you find the tin men and the exit. Later this map is drawn as you venture around vapourizing 'bots, which only really helps in retreat. Alongside sit status boxes constantly flashing news to you of imminent demise and weapons info.
The maze feel is enhanced by using split-screen perspective graphics. Your guy chases off down the corridor and the whole room moves past him. He can easily (except in combat) be turned to look around corners and on unknown levels both parties can split up and share their information. It's really confusing to watch as your mate steams past and you catch a glimpse of yourself from his angle. Remember, you too can be hurt by the other guy's shots and not just the bots.
Xybots does have a few twists to justify wholesale destruction. Firstly you've got to collect the various items left lying around the place to improve your chances of a long and happy life, secondly to beat increasingly nasty Master Xybots every three or four levels. Most importantly, you need to find the energy capsules vital to life. The energy limit (effectively your tune and hits counter) runs down real quick, and it's necessary to pick up supplies along the way on the larger levels just to cover the ground.
Some bots are more difficult to kill than others, armoured up and only exposing themselves (?!) when shooting you. Huge blue 'bots roam about and, while easily killed, they do have some powerful cannons. Some xybots come at you on suicide runs, wiping out vast amounts of life energy if successful. Sundry other surprises include walls which open when unlocked to reveal large numbers of trigger-happy androids breathing oil fumes in your face.
As usual in this son of war zone, someone's out to make a quick buck and yet more weapons shops have been opened to tool up nutters on the rampage. There's money to be made in supplying the bloodbath trade; first Vindicators, then Forgotten Worlds and now Xybot Central. Everything can be bought for a price. Enormous coins are left around by zapped xybots for you to pop into your piggy bank and save toward a stronger shield, guard mapper or what you will.
The two player option confuses matters but also adds a new dimension to play with the ability to outflank enemies - but of course the same is also true for the boys in tin. Things get mean out there in 'bot country' and you can never just take things easy. Lasers are always screaming in from distant 'bots and new style machines constantly rear their ugly bonces, forcing you to discover how on earth to go blow it to pieces!
An exceptional arcade conversion in its accuracy Xybots falls short of the mark. No programmer can convert a coin-op and make it brilliant if the coin-op falls short in the originality department. Xybots in either form - CPC or arcade - is exciting for twenty minutes but dull after an hour. Running round and roasting robots is passable fun, but it doesn't hold up well for long, even with tight time/energy limits to inject tension.
Xybots does have one saving grace: when the game gets dull, you can always turn rogue and surprise your partner with a few stray shots!
These guys walk like they've spent the week on a horse - which is true to the arcade. In fact, everything about this game is as arcade-like as possible on the CPC. Which is a pity, because I never was that crazy about it.
First Day Target Score
Green Screen View
P. They keep that original flavour.
P. Games screen complex but clear.
P. Eerie atmospheric tune.
Grab Factor 61%
N. Controls are strange to use...
P. ...but the best solution to a tricky problem.
Staying Power 69%
P. Loads of levels to hunt around.
N. Kill and collect is all there is to do.
P. Quality conversion of an average coin-op.
N. Only as good as its parentage allows.