Computer Gamer


Publisher: Program Techniques
Machine: Amstrad CPC464

Published in Computer Gamer #14


Xcel was exclusively reviewed on the Spectrum some months ago, and now Computer Gamer brings you the first review of the Amstrad version.

For those of you who missed the first review, here is an overview of the game: the universe has regressed into an earlier time, to save the universe you have to find and destroy the 30 sentine bases of the 300 known planets.

To do this, you have stolen a space ship from a museum, however you only know certain controls from their pictographic references. The language is totally undeciferable, though in time you can understand chunks of it.

The game starts up with you in orbit around a planet; from here you can do a number of things under icon-control. The two computers can be accessed, one for instruction on playing the game and icon functions. The other computer gives your information on the planet that you are currently orbiting, whether you've visited it or not, a map of the surface, and that sort of thing.

The other icons allow you to pick your planet, hyperspace to it, switch back to planet view mode, receive hyperspace communications, examine your status and launch a lander to the planet.

Navigation simply allows you to select a planet and a system. All systems conveniently have three planets also displayed alongside the planet is some information on it. However, it is in the writings of the Ancients, so unless you are very good at decoding runes, you can't really understand it, though after a while you get used to which symbols mean that you are going to have a hard time.

Hyperspace will transport you to the planet, with a quick stars-flashing-past sequence similar to 3D Time Trek. Dropping into attack mode puts you into one of your three shuttles and into an arcade-type sequence. You manoeuvre your shuttle through a maze of trees and buildings. After this you go into a Galaxian-type screen with aliens coming at you in formation. The maze and the aliens are repeated again until you find a sentinel base - or you don't.

This process continues for each planet (in whatever order you decide) until you find all the bases.

Score is decided on a percentage basis rather than on the more conventional how-many-aliens-have-you-shot method. This gives you a hit-miss ratio with a sort of graph.

Overall, Xcel is a good game to play, it has a high difficulty factor for dedicated gamers and is presented extremely well - the rotating planet in view mode is very impressive. The graphics on a whole are excellent and have been slightly improved over the Spectrum game.

The reduction in colours is barely noticeable, and those used are very effective. Sound is much improved over the Spectrum with a drum synth rattling on in the background.

The main fault that I ound was in the icon selection. This is by various keys that are meant to represent the position of the icon on-screen. I can never remember this property and would have preferred to have seen the function keypad used instead.