29th Nov2017

Digital Shorts: ‘Xenoraid’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Xenoraid, a new indie shmup now available on the Nintendo Switch.

xenoraid-screen

Intercept the alien threat in missions that play out differently every time. Pilot skilfully to line up devastating bursts of fire. Switch between four fighters during combat to bring in the best weapons for each situation. Upgrade, repair and enhance your squadron between missions. Bring down huge alien capital ships in hectic boss fights. Put your skills to the ultimate test in three endless survival missions with online leader boards!

An old-school shoot ‘em-up with a new-school makeover, Xenoraid mixes classic action and modern features in a title that will feel familiar to older gamers yet plays, and also sounds, fresh, new and exciting. Think Galaga and you’d be somewhere close. And whilst the game may look like yet another simplistic shmup, under the hood lies an interesting, different, take on the classic formula; adding rogue-like elements to make this particular indie shoot ‘em-up stand out from the ever-increasing crowd.

At it’s core however, Xenoraid is an old-school arcade shoot ‘em-up through and through – with the same waves of enemies and the same frenetic gameplay; with graphics that whilst not as traditional as you’d expect, still work to convey the same retro vibe.. Yet whilst it features some very familiar game mechanics, one area where Xenoraid it does differ is in the number of ships you get to pilot. Rather than have a set number of lives, players instead alternate between four ships, powered slightly differently and – much like a three-on-three beat ‘em up (Marvel vs. Capcom I’m looking at you) – you can switch between ships at will. Which is especially handy when one of the said ships has been hit once too often and is about to blow up… Thankfully having four ships at your disposal means that you should make it to the end of each stage without “dying” completely – you just have to make sure you have enough resources at the end of each stage to pay for repairs! Though should you REALLY mess up, you can buy new ships inbetween missions/stages.

Having four ships at your disposal also makes the game feel different on a minute by minute basis. Your heavily-armed spaceship is too slow for a fast-moving wave of enemies? Switch to a lighter, faster one and take down the enemies with ease (well, easier). Enemies aren’t beeing taken out easily by your ship? Switch to one that has been upgraded to more powerful weaponary, or better still one packed with rockets rather than just regular guns. Having four vessels at your disposal means that Xenoraid requires more thinking, more planning than a traditional shmup. Gone is the shoot first, hope you don’t die attitude and in comes more strategy and somewhat of an RPG mindset – forever planning ahead, arming your ships with the required weaponary that you *think* will get you through the next mission and forever balancing repairs with armaments…

As I’ve said in previous reviews, it seems that the shmup is making a comeback with this generation of consoles and Xenoraid is a great example of a next-generation of shoot ‘em-up taking what has come before and, whilst updating it, still being familiar enough to feel like second nature.

**** 4/5

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