I'm always amazed by the sheer number of video games that are out there. I'm always stumbling on some classic game that I never had the chance to play back in the day. This weekend, I had some friends over, and we spent some time playing games on my arcade cabinet. While scrolling through the list, one buddy was overjoyed to find Xenophobe, a game I was previously unfamiliar with. Later on, a different friend was similarly thrilled to find Xybots, one of his favorite games from many years ago. Today, we'll take a closer look at these twin X-titled classics, both of which hit arcades in 1987.
First up is Xenophobe, a three player game from Bally Midway. In 1987, the side scrolling brawler was in its infancy. Many of the staples of the genre weren't quite as ubiquitous as they would later become. One such hallmark, having all players on the same screen at all times, was absent in Xenophobe. Instead of keeping all the action on one screen, Xenophobe had a unique three way split view. Each player controlled one section of the screen, and had the freedom to move back and forth at will. It was perhaps not the most elegant of solutions, but certainly made Xenophobe stand out from the crowd.
The players took on the roles of various heroes, some human, and some alien, as they wandered throughout a large environments, like space stations and rocket ships. Players could choose from three different heroes, meaning nine playable characters were available. This was yet another aspect that set Xenophobe apart. A trigger style joystick, with two other context-sensitive action buttons, as well as a healthy amount of items, weapons, and power ups, kept the action interesting throughout.
The enemy aliens went by the name Xenos, rather unimaginatively. In appearance and in action, the Xenos were, charitably speaking, highly reminiscent of those in the Alien series films. The rip off of the popular franchise went even further with the inclusion of leathery eggs and crawly, life-sucking aliens that attached themselves to the heroes. But really, being inspired by science fiction films or books was pretty much what video games did at the time, and what Xenophobe lacked in originality was more than made up for by the innovative display area, control scheme, and unparalleled freedom to explore.