Review: Witches, black holes, and a substance that materializes thought, obviously.
Everyone knows that if you love current generation 2-D shooters then you either own a PS2 or wish you had one. If you happen to own an Xbox and are also a rabid 2-D shooter fan then you have recently had your prayers answered?well, sort of. Xyanide is a fast paced 2-D space shooter that succeeds in blending in a 3-D shooting element as well. While Xyanide thrives in several aspects, it simply does not level-up its cannons nearly as high as it could have.
The storyline: witches, black holes, and a substance that materializes thought, obviously. The occupants of a planet called Mardar have sentenced a witch named Aguira to death by being disintegrated in the local black hole. Drake, that's you, is given the task of escorting Aguira to the black hole and finishing the witch off. Along the way, Aguira uses xyanide, the substance that materializes thought, to create a hellish environment for you to fly through. Apparently, Aguira's thoughts are not very creative. The cut-scenes will not blow you away, but they look good and explain the plot as you go. They could have benefited from being much more concise, but the voiceovers, artwork, and plot work well together.
Visually the game is not all it could be. As far as 2-D shooters go, the background is drab and highly repetitive?the game feels like one big level. Traveling through more corridors than some type of newfangled corridor traveling machine, Xyanide screams for the occasional change of pace. On the other hand, the foreground enemy ships are subtly interesting and the explosions are very well done. The main avatar ships themselves could have a lot more detail, however, it is hard to criticize a creative decision by the artists?they still look good. Furthermore, the camera in the game is constantly moving. This aspect is more of a negative than a positive. While it is interesting to see your ship from different angles, the irregular amount of camera movement is almost ridiculous. This is a different vision of what a 2-D shooter can be. Lastly, Xyanide is presented in a 16:9 letterbox format. If you have a widescreen television with a zoom button, you are in business. If you do not, you will have to play it in a highly stretched out letterbox view. Basically, if you can't play this game on a widescreen with a zoom feature then find a 4:3 T.V.
Xyanide is a very well controlled game. You use the left analog to control your fighter and the right analog to shoot and aim one of your two cannon choices. The right trigger is used to switch between your different guns; mechanic and organic. The organic cannon, a spread shot with heat-seeking missiles, devastates small enemies while the mechanic cannon, a highly focused cannon with regular missiles, is for larger enemies. Switching between these two guns on the fly is imperative to your survival. The left trigger is used for secondary missile fire. When the left trigger is held primary fire stops and a target comes up. You can move the target over multiple enemies and then let go of the left trigger to fire missiles. Throwing in a little twist, Xyanide also adds a 3-D element to the game play?you can shoot at enemies in the background. This background to foreground mechanic is controlled in a very straightforward manner. All you have to do is to align your ship over a target in the background and your stream of fire will shoot at the enemy off in the distance. Overall, the controls are smooth engaging.
Most games of this genre need to have good weapon upgrades or at least a varied arsenal. While I love the organic/mechanic cannon switching, I find that the upgrades are lacking visually. When I get a weapon upgrade I want to know it. I want the game to reward me with not only more power, but also with a highly noticeable visual change in the projectiles themselves. The explosions and some of the enemy fire, specifically the lightning attacks, look fantastic. Why make the avatar fire so bland? It makes no sense. The Xbox is more than capable of exhibiting beautiful, rich, and colorful weapon fire. Another gripe, 2-D shooters are often known for huge and devastating boss battles. With that said, the bosses in Xyanide really lack character. There is no real feel for the different bosses. No umph. No gusto. No personality. Basically, they are very large and are full of weak spots to target. That is pretty much the gist.
The audio in this game could use some work. I have nothing against electronic music and I feel it is a very fitting genre for space shooters, but the music in this game is fairly generic. There is a very long soundtrack at least. Personally, I wish that the music was more dynamic and hypnotic. Part of the joy of playing 2-D space shooters is the trance-like state that they put you in. You need to be ?in-the-zone? to escape the never ending hordes of adversaries.