Feeds

Xenon: Bitmap Brothers' (mega)blast from the past

Classic Amiga and ST scroll-play gaming

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Weapon Shops of Crispin

Xenon 2 Atari ST - a forbidable boss in action

Xenon 2 on the Atari ST: a formidable boss in action

Still, both platforms shared Xenon 2’s glorious visuals, which had taken a large step forward and resembled even more of the arcade look every home gamer was after. The Bitmap’s distinctive line of gradient-shaded, realistic looking rocks and gleaming machinery were trademark touches shown off in full force here, alongside five layers of parallax scrolling. End of level bosses had that lavish, imposing size of the arcade screen that many home games found hard to replicate – huge alien frogs, reptiles and squids with laser-shooting googly eyes.

In terms of gameplay, some considered Xenon 2 to be a retrograde step, as it ditched its predecessor’s innovative dual vehicle approach for the more traditional solo flying machine. Yet what it lost there, it gained in more sophisticated power-ups, and a weapons shop that could be visited mid-way and at the end of each stage. Here, a nasty looking, headphone-wearing alien called Crispin trades your fiercely collected bubble-shaped credits for all manner of crazy and wild enhancements.

Xenon 2 Amiga, pop by the shops for some treats with this pleasant chap

Xenon 2 Amiga style: pop by the shops for some treats with this pleasant chap

Often, tactical choices needed to be made when purchasing weapons, so as to defeat the upcoming waves of enemies. Levels also featured somewhat maze-like rock structures – sometimes leading your ship down a ‘dead end’ – so it was handy to be able to kick your spaceship into reverse gear and actually send the scrolling backwards for a change. More innovative game-design work, for sure.

The Bitmap Brothers will always be remembered dearly by the Amiga and ST faithful. The graphical and sonic accomplishments are clear, but what really cemented the company’s success was its understanding of how home computer games often required more detail, more complexity and nuances, than their arcade counterparts. Those interchangeable power-ups and little puzzling sections lead to great replay value that hooked gamers in for the long haul.

Xenon 2 Amiga, dead end street - remember to sling it into reverse

Dead end street: remember to sling it into reverse

Mike Montgomery of The Bitmap Brothers is still operating, and indeed owns the company’s entire intellectual property. You’ll find links to lots of his re-released and re-hashed Bitmap Brothers classics here.

There’s no sign of the Xenon games yet, though Xenon 2 did manage to sneak out onto Blackberry, of all places, in 2013. That version got some negative feedback for its on-screen controls, so perhaps there’s a bit of re-thinking to be done before we get the iOS and Android releases. Nevertheless, it’s surely only a matter of time before commuter trains are subjected to an early morning smartphone Megablast. Be warned, those pesky Xenites will return once again. ®

Released Xenon 1988, Xenon 2 1989
Developer The Bitmap Brothers, The Assembly Line
Publisher Melbourne House, Image Works
Platforms Arcade + most home platforms

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD TO DIE, and this is WHY
Apple, er, couldn’t get parts for HDD models
Apple spent just ONE DOLLAR beefing up the latest iPad Air 2
New iPads look a lot like the old one. There's a reason for that
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Microsoft fitness bands slapped on wrists: All YOUR HEALTH DATA are BELONG TO US
Wearable will deliver 'actionable insights for healthier living'
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
Back to the ... drawing board: 'Hoverboard' will disappoint Marty McFly wannabes
Buzzing board (and some future apps) leave a lot to be desired
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?