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XENOPHOBE / Atari / 2600
Xenophobe was an arcade game that was almost a little too complex and advanced for its time. Why anyone would want to try to port a complex arcade game to the severely technologically limited Atari 2600 is beyond me. Why they would further make a port of a 1987 release *in 1990* on the 2600 is just astoundingly baffling, however. For perspective, in 1990 the NES was just entering the last stretch of its life cycle and was only about a year away from being supplanted by the Genesis as the console of choice.
Atari went ahead with it, though, and apparently the near-decade of experience paid off ... in making a port that's technically impressive if you're familiar with the usual limitations of Atari 2600 games, but still kind of sucks ass to play. However, as far as the 2600 library goes, relatively speaking, this game is amazing. The arcade game is nearly completely replicated - in much more blocky and pixelicious form - with the exception only of not being able to fire diagonally or having three-player simultaneous play. There's *two player* simultaneous in a split screen, though, which is pretty amazing for the console.
Well, maybe I'm overselling it a bit. You don't get to choose your character, instead being stuck with the generic Mr. Spock clone. And of course, there's no inventory system, since you've only got the one button and that's needed to fire. Most of the rest of the details of the game make it in, though. If you're familiar with the arcade game you'll recognize the blockier versions of all the alien enemies, who don't look nearly as good but still move smoothly in the same patterns that they did in the arcade. You start out with a finite amount of pistol ammo and have to scrounge new weapons as you go, being reduced to a punch if you don't find any (aside from more pistol ammo you can pick up a knife and bombs among other things.) You move and jump the same way you do in the arcade. You still have to explore a series of ships, start a detonator, then find your way to the exit. The gameplay really feels like that of the arcade version for the most part, despite the primitive graphical overhaul.
It's not nearly entertaining enough to play to seek out for its own sake, but if you're an Atari 2600 collector or hobbyist or something, it's probably worth checking out just for the technical prowess on display.
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