This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
The galaxy is once again in peril! Under the onslaught of the malevolent, life-devouring creature known as the Orb, all life in the galaxy is being systematically consumed. Naturally, the galaxy turns its fate over to a hero who’s hell-bent on destroying the Orb and ending its gluttonous campaign of extermination. Armed with an unusual sidekick/main weapon, which looks like a fly but functions like a plasma cannon, the player’s job is to cruise around each infected planet and destroy the Orb’s influence.
So far, the plot is nothing extraordinary. Xotic introduces this unoriginal story by way of an equally unoriginal and unappealing intro video, with a modulated computer-sounding voice reading the lines so blandly that it, too, sounds bored. The story, such as it is, neatly divides the game into four separate planets upon which the player must wage war against the nefarious power of the Orb. Each has a unique aesthetic to its environment that ensures a player will be rewarded with a different visual experience from one planet to another. In addition, the player can tackle the planets in any manner they choose, by either hopping from arena to arena in a scatterbrained approach, or making an orderly advance in clearing out each planet.
The planets are divided into a handful of arenas each, and this is where the bulk of the game takes place. The main objective, of course, is to dash through each arena, kill the Orb’s life-sucking servants, and blow up the glowing red micro-orbs left behind by the Orb. These explode upon death and create secondary explosions, which will then lead to score-enhancing explosion chains.
This is, ultimately, why the story is a complete throwaway. There’s no point in even remembering why the glowing red orbs are there; it’s mostly just important to remember that they explode and that the Gumby-reject enemies must be destroyed to end the arena. Once the story is dropped – not difficult – it becomes a matter of rote memorization of each arena, and then it all comes down to skill.
The way you’re supposed to play Xotic is by giving each level a couple of cursory runs, learning where the orb clusters, enemies, and power-ups are, finding where the longest chain reactions are located, and then running through the level as quickly as you can, using as few shots and wasting as little time as possible. In this respect, Xotic is more about competing against yourself and a persistent leaderboard than against some colorful galactic terror. Trying to trim down your times and beef up your score is where Xotic really becomes fun, and the addition of a friends-only leaderboard that pops up at the end of each arena helps to give a little competitive fuel.
In a perfect world, Xotic would have a smooth, intuitive control scheme that would become second nature. However, Xotic seems to go out of its way to make the controls as difficult as possible. Leaning is operated by the right bumper and firing by the right trigger, which effectively means that you can’t lean and fire at the same time unless you’re used to using your main and middle fingers in conjunction. The left bumper is for jumping, and A is for crouching. Most of these movements are used to avoid enemy fire, but they’re not particularly useful in most situations. Leaning, for example, just leans you to the left, always. There’s also a bizarre separation between the X and Y axes, with horizontal movement being rapid and vertical being alarmingly slow. This can’t be changed through the control menu, which is simply bizarre. All of these issues add up, making the game frustrating in ways that it shouldn’t be. Shoddy controls lead to a death or to not triggering a certain chain when you need to, which can be game-breakingly harsh. This is especially true when you’ve got your friends’ high scores taunting you at the end of every arena, making a simple frustration into a greater one. The controls can be changed, but only through a few preset options. The one I found worked best was Alternate Right, but there are also mirrored settings for each preset that swap the shoulder and trigger buttons around.
Xotic isn’t the type of game that’s going to turn the industry upside down, but it is a clever and reasonably diverting one. The fast paced, addictive gameplay is going to attract the type of players that the Xbox Live Arcade is geared toward, and for 800 Microsoft points, it’s hardly a bank-breaking purchase. Still, I would caution any potential players to definitely try out the demo before buying. If the few levels within the demo hold no allure, it’s probably best to skip this one for now.
Xotic gets a final score of 4.25/5.0
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