Xotic
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-01-06 Xbox 360 FPS WXP Games / Valcon Games

Xotic caught my eye because of the look: "Colorful FPS? With an arcade scoring system? Well that doesn't happen everyday, I should try this!" But the big surprise for me was that the concept of FPS wasn't as FPS-ish as I thought, as we see by the lack of enemies, which is a good thing since I'm usually extremely clumsy at these games.

Xotic is really arcade puzzle shooter. The story revolves around an alien being, The Orb, that at some point decides that its life as an energy being wasn't good enough and goes crazy, starts destroying planets by planting toxin-releasing scabs all over these worlds. You play as some strange stick-figure inspired insect alien (or at least that's what it looks like from the short blurry bits where you enter the stages) armed with the Macroterra, your symbiotic weapon/creature.

The basic goal of each stage is to run through it as fast as you can while scoring as much as you can. While in other shooters your primary concern is to get rid of enemies, here you must first and foremost terraform the stage by shooting the scab plants (red orbs), and create the best chain you can. The bigger the chain, the higher your score.

Aside from terraforming, there are two other goals: eliminate all Orb Essence (yellow, orange and purple), and find all the Orb Brains for each stage. These goals will add a multiplier to your score at the end of the stage. To find the exit of a given stage, you must kill all enemies in it. Your crosshair in the middle of the screen will point you to the direction of said enemies, but it's easy to lose track of it in the middle of exploding colors and sparkly items.

Only the bonus stages have no enemies, so in these you must complete the level goals or wait until the timer runs out in order to exit. Bonus stages are an interesting change of pace and focus more on the puzzle side of the game of thinking about ways to make the best chain.

In between levels, you can upgrade your weapon and your character by attributing points to the respective skill trees. While upgrading your character is pretty straight-forward, getting the hang of the Macroterra is... downright strange. The weapon can be upgraded with energy shots, virus gun, even a homing insect swarm, but all these features go into it together. Figuring out how to use and switch between them in-game could have used more instructions: you can have one active primary weapon and one secondary weapon, and you can cycle through all of the weapon types available, which isn't a very convenient or fast process during a shoot-out with enemies.

As you make your way through the different stages, you will find some power-ups such as flight boosts, hologram batteries and score multipliers. Holograms allow you to place a barrier that can be used as cover or shield, or a platform to reach higher areas. It's not easy to master this "jump and place hologram mid-air" ability to jump again (in fact, it's pretty frustrating most of the time), but combining that with a flight boost lets you reach what would seem impossible at first sight.

Shooting crystals and flowers can also give you score and health bonuses, but if you're in for the speed run, you might not want to stop for them. After all, speed and accuracy are the main skills required to get through the different worlds in Xotic.

There is a lot going on in Xotic almost all the time, with turrets shooting you without you being able to realize where all this damage is coming from until you're dead, explosions and sparkly things, little nests of crawling exploding bugs, enemies conveniently blending in with the landscape and homing in on you... It's not an easy game and the screen gets pretty busy, which sometimes leads to some frame rate issues. Add to that some awkward jumping mechanics and jerky aiming, and you have some interesting challenges to overcome aside from the game goals themselves.

Overall, I like the psychedelic look and strangeness of Xotic. I like the music and sound effects. I like my weird alien character and my somewhat creepy insect-like symbiotic weapon, and I would actually like to learn more about them. I think that with a little more work, the gameplay would have been more enjoyable, but even so, I've been enjoying my occasional speed runs through these bizarre landscapes.