Xenomorph by Pandora - Commodore 64 Retro Review by Chris Burgoyne

First person Adventure, Sci-Fi, RPG? Check! A tonne of atmosphere to get you in the mood from the start? Check! It is down to you, and you alone to repair the ship, obtain fuel and provisions and re-program the ship's computer, the only problem is... you start the game just in your pants!.

Xenomorph? Pandora? Commodore 64 version? I think if you asked a room of the most avid Commodore 64 fans to list 100 games each.. this would not even gain a solitary mention. I remember at school we would regularly talk about games and I'd hit my friends with this this one. Their eyes would glaze over and we would talk about Stunt Car Racer, Turrican and Bubble Bobble once more.

Despite the title screen suggesting this could be a remake of the film Cocoon - trust me when I say there's not one over 70, with an extraordinary exercise routine, in sight. Xenomorph strikes you when it loads, as the title screen has some seriously cool music, with some killer bass and digitised speech that really sets the tone and gets the heart pumping. You then see a space ship zooming into the distance towards a planet and you're in the zone - this isn't going to be some cutesy platform game!

You may have noticed that I did mention that you start this game just in your pants. Naturally, it's none of my business how you dress when you're playing retro games, but your choice of characters have very little clothing. You can run through the various characters and decide who you will take control of - either based on their Strength, Stamina, Skill or Morale rating or maybe you think their job could be critical to your mission?

Your main screen is really neat. The top right is your main view of the outside world. Top left you have your statistics - Health, Stamina, Radiation Absorbed, Food and Water. There is a special equipment area and you have your hands which can, naturally, hold things. The arrows in the centre of the screen move you around - simple. The cursor system is smooth, responsive and can be controlled by keyboard or joystick.

Discovering various wall panels that need to be opened are key to the game - these can provide anything from information to supplies to help you survive to components that you will need to complete your mission. Naturally there are aliens out there that would rather you were dead - so these naturally need to be dealt with. As you start the game with barely more than your birthday suit it's pretty critical that you find yourself something to kill them with.

The graphics throughout, although not spectacular, are very good. Everything is clear so you easily workout what you're doing. The level of difficulty is gradual which does make this a great game to slowly ease yourself into. It is quite striking how there isn't any music when the game starts - especially after the awesome intro music and speech - but I feel this adds to the feel and tension of the game - you would hardly find Classic FM playing in these kind of places would you?

For you "mapping enthusiasts" out there - this is a gem of a game. You really do need to keep a track of where you're going and where you need to head back to or you will get your head in a spin quite quickly.

As with a lot of games of this genre the atmosphere is often set with the instruction manual - this is no exception. A thick manual full of fantastic instructions, a whole story and Captains Log really do help set the mood. There is a degree of disk swapping that can prove to be quiet frequent - however load times are short and doesn't really become a noticeable irritation.

If you're a fan of first person perspective adventures this is a hidden gem of a game with a difficulty level that shouldn't put off the hardcore gamer or the beginner. Sit in a darkened room, think of the movie Alien and prepare to instantly jump into the role of fixing the ship - this has atmosphere in bucket loads.

Written by Chris Burgoyne @chrisburgoyne

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