Xotic is a bizarre first-person shooter that instead of focusing on wars, military and multiplayer deathmatch, moves your attention to something that isn’t seen that much in the FPS market these days; an arcade-style score-based shooter that just loves to throw points at you.
There is actually a story to this game, which is told by a robotic voice during the intro. It explains how you, who is a scrawny looking grey alien, needs to cleanse the evil presence and replant the seeds of life on a planet that has been ravaged by the minions of the Orb. All you know is that the Orb is a demonic spawn that eats away at the life force of the world. It will probably just fly over your head, and well to be honest, a game like this doesn’t need to have a story anyway.
Objectively the idea is to rack up the highest score possible while playing through one of the game’s 23 levels set across four environments. Initially this seems quite basic as the game introduces you to the idea of chain reactions (the game calls it terraforming) which are the mechanics of blowing up these red orbs named scab plants. Chaining these plants together causes combo bonuses and increases the multipliers, as long as you keep the chain going before the timer bar runs empty.
It won’t be long until you find out that the game is filled with a ton of ways to gain points. Gems are another item that you can pick up. They have a special property where if you collect them while in the air, be it from jumping or falling off a cliff, then you’ll hear the announcer shout out “Aerial Combo” and you’ll gain more points for it. You don’t really have to try to find places to jump from as the player is given the ability to create a hard hologram platform, allowing you to create a podium (or a shield for protection) underneath you whenever you jump into the air. It really helps you to gain access to secret hidden areas with more points to collect, usually filled with a crystal ball (termed brain). These float around and blow up when shot, scattering little balls everywhere that need to be collected to add to your score.
To challenge your high score attempt the game has enemies scattered around the level. These will range from aliens with guns that will run around trying to blast you, to machine gun turrets placed on ledges that will shoot you from great distances with their wide viewing range. An awkward feature, or should I say lack off, is that the enemies don’t react to your shooting unless it’s the stun weapon. Just pop a few bullets in them and you won’t have any indication if you have actually hit them apart from the sound of a impacting shot.
Adding the enemies into the mix causes them to become these awkward obstacles that stop you from getting that perfect run. You have to hunt the enemies down as the main bulk of the campaign features a mission objective that opens a portal after you have killed every enemy in that stage. Entering it will end the level, so if you need more time then this gives you the option to carry on looking for orbs while the bonus timer still counts down. ‘Time Attack’ is the other mode that gives the player a certain amount of time to get as much points as possible.
You are on a tight schedule as bonus points are awarded for meeting certain criteria when you finish the level. Stars are awarded for beating the level, having fast times, high accuracy, combo chains, and how much of the orbs you ‘terraform’. The more stars you earn the better, as they collectively add up at the end. For example, four stars will net you 25,000 points extra while five stars will give you 50,000. The difficulty you play on also multiplies your total score, with Medium doubling and Hard tripling.
A game like Xotic requires you to replay levels to improve your score. It’s about finding the fastest route through a level, but at the same time you have to think about the power ups that you can pick up. Scattered throughout levels are items that will multiply your score, give your weapons double damage or increased fire rate, make you invincible, and even give you the gift of flight and make it easier to achieve aerial combos.
Normally in a game like this people would keep replaying a level till they were satisfied with their score. I’d actually advise just to beat the level and come back later as Xotic has an experience system in play. For beating the level you’ll gain experience points to level up your character or unlock more weapons and upgrade them. The weapon appearances are unique, with the standard gun looking like some mutated fly head. Even though the weapons all have an organic theme, each one plays like any standard gun, for example the flies are homing rockets, the scatter shot is a shotgun and the powerful laser is a sniper rifle. Secondary weapons are available, such as the ability to stun enemies or poison them.
On the character side you can level up the alien hero by putting experience points into his health, energy (for weapon ammo) or the power to absorb balls from exploded scab plants from greater distances. All these power ups help you a lot, so finding the ones that work well with how you play will surely make it easier to hit the number one spot on the Steam leaderboards.
You don’t need a powerful PC to run Xotic since graphically it isn’t pushing much. It’s the art style that delights, making the locations (caves, broken buildings, space environments) a pleasure to view while you hectically run around the level at speed as point multiplyers fly all over the place. When everything is active in gameplay it’s like some kid has thrown multiple buckets of paint at a monitor due tot he game’s rich colour pallet that it isn’t afraid of showing you. Xotic certainly fits in the same classification as games such as Zeno Clash for curious art styles.
There aren’t many graphical options for you to play around with. Resolution, glow and refraction are the only things you can alter. Also I encountered a strange bug. On the third environment I got some really bad framerate, even though every other area was perfectly fine. It seems to be something to do with the glow effect as when I disabled them in the options it seemed to be running perfect again. Xotic seems to get patched regularly on Steam, so I expect it to be solved in the future, but for the time being if you get that problem then that is my only perceivable solution.
Audio doesn’t seem to be a strong point of Xotic. You’ve got the standard sound effects, an announcer that says a few words and a soundtrack that’s there, but is quite forgetful. The music I feel was an afterthought compared to the mechanics of the gameplay. That’s not such a negative thing since you become so focused on getting better at the various levels that the music just doesn’t register with you.
If you are looking for a game to play in your spare time, be it for 20 minutes or a couple of hours, and are fan of twitch-style first person shooters that require you to react fast (think Quake III or Unreal Tournament) mixed with a arcade, almost puzzle-like scoring system, then Xotic might just be up your alley. This isn’t a long game per se; it’s about replayability and beating people’s scores. It’s also cheap, going for a bargain price of £5.99, and with a demo on Steam, there’s no excuse not to at least give this unique game a chance to see if it’s for you.
Editor’s Note: Check out the below HD gameplay footage to see Xotic in action!