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Xotic Review

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On 12/12/2011 at 12:00 PM by Esteban Cuevas

Beautiful graphics and interesting mechanics does not a good game make.

Those who like alternative games may like this if they can get past the controls. Give the demo a shot first.

Xotic is a peculiar beast. Developer WXP Games has created something that’s somewhat hard to describe yet familiar when you actually play it. As the reviewer though, I need to do my best in doing so. Okay. Xotic (pronounced like exotic) is a first person shooter with an emphasis on scoring and clearing a level like that of a puzzle game. You are sent to stop the Orb, which is a being that evolved beyond its physical body and has gone mad and is now destroying planets. The way you accomplish this is by completing each level by destroying enemies, collecting power-ups and shooting orb plants in order to get a combo going and raise your high score. Despite impressive art design and surprisingly deep game mechanics, none of this actually melds into a cohesive whole and you’ll be left disappointed at a game that at first held promise but quickly grows frustrating.

The premise is pretty thin but the story isn’t everything. Especially since the first thing you’ll notice about Xotic is its graphics. While they aren’t technically impressive, the art design truly transports you into another world. Atmosphere is immersive in Xotic and the colorful levels help keep your eyes happy while the action happens on-screen. Florescent decorations on the walls and the lively plants make even the darkest caves look rich and vibrant. Audio helps the immersion as strange squirts and clicks will periodically sound off and the music consists of ambience that fits the tone of the levels well. Although there’s nothing that stands out, the presentation as a whole works well together, making Xotic a spectacular looking and sounding game that is cosmetically more than the sum of its parts.

The gameplay itself consists of you running around and shooting things. That’s it. Okay, it’s a bit more involved than that. All the levels have these red pulsating orbs stuck to the walls and floor called Orb Plants. One of the objectives is to shoot these orbs to start a combo. They explode so if any other orbs are around, they will explode as well, starting a chain. Doing combos raises your score, which will help your star level at the end of the stage and rank you on the leaderboards. Xotic is betting high that you will want to return to the stages and improve your score. There are also various pickups that you can collect to raise your score and bonuses for things like collecting a bundle of pickups while in midair. When you do manage to get a high score, it does feel rewarding but other issues keep this from being fun.

Each level has a certain amount of enemies, including creatures and turrets. The level is complete once you defeat all of the enemies. However, the art design in this regard is damaging. You see, some of the enemies are red in color and small. This makes them hard to see. Sure, there’s a little icon on your targeting reticule that tells you what direction the closest enemy is in, but that is small and hard to see as well. Couple this with the fact that this enemy's attack is a one hit kill and you have a very frustrating part of the game. You’ll be ranking up the points and doing well, then all of a sudden you’ll explode, not noticing that an enemy just blew you up with a slow moving projectile that you couldn’t see because it blends into the environment. It could be understandable if this were a later level in the game and it’s trying to be difficult but this is level two, right after the tutorial. Other enemies like exploding spiders suffer from the same problem.

Irritating enemies wouldn’t be a problem if you could control your character properly. The controls have a focus on positioning that this type of game doesn’t need. All of the face buttons are for manipulating your character’s stance. Crouching and switching which hand is holding your gun is done this way. The right bumper is also used to duck your head behind cover, and by 'behind cover' I mean standing behind something. That’s why for some reason, the jump button is the left bumper, and your shield is clicking in the right stick. The controls are configured in a strange way and it hampers the game every step of the way. It doesn’t help that the jump is this floaty mess that doesn’t understand how inertia works. I know this is a space themed game but it doesn’t make any sense. You can use powerups to enable you to float and fly and jump on your shield to get to higher ground but good luck with that as the imprecise feel of the controls will impede you if you try to do anything precisely -- jumping, aiming, moving... you name it.

The game features an impressive skill tree that isn't intricate but fleshed out enough to give the player options as to how to improve their character. Each level completed will reward you with experience points that you can then spend on improvements such as increased health and new ammo types. Whereas one trigger shoots your gun’s energy the other trigger shoots various types of ammo that can be cycled through. These various types of ammo can be upgraded as well and their effectiveness will improve. In theory. Honestly, these different types of ammo tend to just stun or stop an enemy for a small amount of time. Very rarely did I defeat an enemy with the ammo attacks and even when upgraded, the effects seemed to stay the same. They are slightly varied and there are eight of them to get but imagine getting the fire bomb ability; you’re excited to incinerate your foes only to realize that you can’t beat one enemy with it even though you’ve hit it ten times with this thing.

There are four different environments spread across its 23 levels. No matter how beautiful the graphics may be, monotony starts to set in after about four levels. You’ll be essentially doing the same thing over and over. It never really evolves past what you learn in the first two to three levels. Caves, canyons, it’ll all look the same once you figure out the tricks to complete each level quickly and trust me, it won’t take you long. Just set up a shield, peek around it and rapidly fire your gun and move on when all the enemies are gone. In the smaller levels, you can essentially defeat all the enemies without even leaving the area where you spawn at.

Poor controls, repetitive gameplay, ineffective weapons and annoying enemy types does more than prevent you from having fun. It demands that you don’t. Despite all the different aspects of the game and the beauty of the visuals, this game is just not fun. This is not a long game either but I had to put it down after doing a few levels and play something else to keep me from feeling lazy. Although it isn’t a big release, Xotic took me by surprise by how different and interesting it was at first. Too bad the game itself couldn’t back up that initial impression.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Nick DiMola Director

12/12/2011 at 12:11 PM

Aww, what a shame. This one looked pretty cool.

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