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Xenophobe Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 40%
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  • Review Score:

  • C-
The movie Alien was a game-changer when it premiered in 1979. To this day, it is considered the greatest sci-fi horror film ever made. Despite that, for years afterward, there was only one official Alien game, an okay Pac-Man clone on the Atari 2600. When such an opening exists, it's inevitable that rip-offs start showing up to cash in. Enter Xenophobe.

This arcade port involves boarding space stations to destroy aliens before they can be overrun. There are three ways for a stage to end: all the aliens could be destroyed, half can be destroyed followed by finding and hitting the self-destruct button, or the time can run out. Bonus points are given based on the outcome which is a neat idea. You start with a pistol but can find various improved weapons that are randomly placed each time you play. The shooting generally works reasonably well. This is also one of the only Atari 7800 games that features split-screen multiplayer for two people. Granted that's a step-down from the three-player arcade version, but I still appreciate it. The visuals are even decent for the system with plenty of detail on the backdrops and good animation for the aliens.

Xenophobe (Atari 7800)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Sadly, the problems overshadow the positives for the most part. There is only one character for both players to control despite there being nine characters to choose from in the arcade original. The controls are meh at best. Jumping is hardly ever needed except for hitting the ceiling tendrils, but jumping accidentally is too easy due to how sensitive the joystick is. Why is one of the fire buttons only used for grenades? It makes far more sense for it to be used as an action or pick-up button. Too many enemy attacks make you lose your weapon which passes from being tense to just being annoying. I mentioned that there are time and enemy limits per stage, but no indicators are given for either despite there being plenty of room on the HUD for them.

The fact that Xenophobe rips off Alien and its sequel is beyond blatant. I counted five enemy types, and only two weren't straight lifts of the face-huggers and Xenomorphs. Hell, the enemies are actually called "Xenos"! Even though the weapons have different effects like shooting lasers and puffs of smoke, they still feel like rips of the pulse rifle, smart gun, and flame thrower. Did Bally really think we wouldn't notice?

Xenophobe on the Atari 7800 is serviceable at best. Despite my griping, the fact that the game rips off Alien doesn't bother me. The compromises made for the 7800 bugged me much more. There are multiple ways to play the original arcade version at home; stick to those. The 7800 version doesn't deserve to be blasted out an airlock but should be put back in stasis.
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