Complex (at first) controls. Fairly high difficulty level. Occasional slowdowns in gameplay.
A much-delayed late arrival on the Xbox, Xyanide is an interesting mix of space shooter and 3D action with a rather unusual storyline for a shooter. In the game, you play Drake, an Executioner escorting an evil witch to its grave when it gets its hands on a substance called Xyanide, causing all sorts of funky stuff to happen. It's your job to pilot a small yet agile fighter plane and make sure the witch gets to the execution.
The graphics are decent yet rather innovative, making good use of 3D environments in what looks like a 2D game. The backgrounds don't have a lot of color & variety but are fairly well-detailed and the cutscenes look great too. The game moves at a fast pace but there tends to be some unintentional slowdown during the mid-boss stages when a lot of objects are onscreen. Sounds are an interesting mix of both old-school and new sounds: The effects are about what you'd expect from a space shooter, but some of them sound like they came out of 80s classics like Defender and others, a refreshing way to pay homage to the older titles. The soundtrack is generally metal & techno that's nice to listen to but gets repetitive, fortunately the game also supports Custom Soundtracks so you can shoot to whatever music you like when playing the game. Controls are responsive but fairly complex at first-almost every button on the Xbox controller gets used for switching between weapons. It's hard to figure out at first, but onscreen displays do help once you get the hang of it. The controls are quite accurate, especailly the default setup of using the right thumbstick for your main weapons-it does the aiming for you and flying while shooting in every possible angle is easy to pick up on. Gameplay is standard 2D space shooting with a 3D twist-At first it looks like your standard horizontal-scrolling shooter, but the 3D environments come into play as do the backgrounds, making this a true 3D shooter. Adding to the variety is that your fighter can equip over a dozen different types of weapons and other temporary powerups and upgrade them through gameplay, which keeps plenty of variety in trying different weapons and tactics and helps to boost the replay value. The game also makes the end-stage boss battles more challenging and fun by adding a timer to each, and the multi-part battles force you to keep developing and changing strategies. Multiplayer is included as well, allowing 2 players to work together to clear the game's 6 levels-not a bad thing because the difficulty is a bit on the high side, even on the lower levels (but it's not impossible). What also increases the challenge is that you can only accumulate so many lives and continues during the game, plus 2 players together must share the continues. In addition to the main game, there is also a level mode that lets you play any prior unlocked level, plus the high score tables keep track of several different score aspects, which further increases replay value as you try to score higher and stay alive longer. There also is limited Xbox Live support consisting primarily of online scoreboards and Live Aware.
While it's kind of disappointing that the game was delayed for almost a year before finally getting released, and then seemed to be released only in limited quantities, the uniqueness of the gameplay for a regular space shooter and a very nice $20 price tag make this a title worth picking up if you still have an Xbox and can find it. If this turns out to be one of the last shooters like this we see, then Xyanide sends it out with one of the best.