Another week, another eShop release from the insanely prolific publisher 10tons. If we’re not careful we’re going to lose track of all the games they’re putting out on the Nintendo Switch. Delving into yet another genre, here we have a vertical shooter in Xenoraid.
The story is pretty simple, as is mostly the case with 10tons’ games, but they do go to the effort to make it feel like a more complete package. An alien fleet is spotted approaching Earth, after failed attempts at communication the last resort is war. Cobbling together some ramshackle spaceships, you must fend off the alien invasion over 40 levels.
One of the things stated in the PR for this game is that they really tried to go against the tropes of the shooter genre to give a more down to Earth, accessible experience. Despite initial worries from me personally, I think they’ve succeeded.
The main gimmick of Xenoraid is the fact that you take four fighters with you to each level and can switch between them at any time. Each fighter is assigned to a different face button; A, B, X and Y and pressing them will switch almost instantaneously. Xenoraid is clever though as this also gives you a few frames of invincibility from enemy crafts and fire, making it a very tactical way to play the game. If you’re suddenly surrounded or in danger of being hit, a quick panic press to a different craft will help you out.
This is great. Since each individual craft have their own health bars it’s also tactical in switching out and saving your fighter from destruction and a harsh fine to recoup the cost. The crafts can be very different too. In the first world there’s only two different types but by the second world you’re rocking an entirely diverse team of fighters. One with a flamethrower, one with a shotgun spread, another with a machine gun and finally, my personal favourite, the bomb guy. In addition to that, they each have their own separate special weapon which do different things. For example, one has a shock charge that can instantly wipe out a rather irksome shield. I really like how tactical this simple game can be.
Unlike most shoot ‘em ups, Xenoraid is firmly out of the predetermined enemy patterns. Sure, each level has a set amount of certain enemies to destroy as a target for completion in different waves, but the way they come at you is undecided. They’ll fly at you, circle around a bit and disappear off screen only to appear again at a later time. This was another mechanic that I was worried about at first as it’s not something I saw working in a shmup but it does, mainly for the fact it’s not score based.
Along the 40 level campaign mode you can also upgrade your ship’s weapons and tech, something which you will need to do often in order to give yourself a fighting chance. You can increase certain attributes of your ship or give your team bonus tech that affect everyone. An example of this is the distraction beacon which draws away homing missiles from you. If you buy this tech upgrade, all of your ships benefit from it.
The worst part about Xenoraid for me is probably the backgrounds which may as well be a static image for what they actually offer. It may sound like making a mountain out of a molehill, but when I was first researching the game prior to playing it, it’s the backgrounds that really made me worry. They are cheap and boring and offer no suggestion of actually going somewhere. The moving player, incoming enemies and asteroids are just at odds with the background. I actually thought Xenoraid would be a terrible game because of them, because they look so cheap and half arsed.
The graphics as a whole are a little too much on the cheap side to me. They are firmly in the mobile game style which I’m honestly not a fan of. I’m generally not fussed about the graphics or art style of a game, but when it looks this cheap it really puts me off. There’s nothing about it that screams quality to me.
Thankfully, as I’m sure you’re aware already, Xenoraid plays much better than it looks and so don’t let videos fool you. It’s actually far better when it’s in your hands than when it’s just being observed. The tactical, fun gameplay takes the cheap looks out of it.
Outside of the main campaign there are three survival stages to test your skills. As you’d imagine, you survive as long as you can until you die and your score is uploaded to an online leaderboard. It may give the game more longevity for the more competitive of souls. There’s also two player cooperative play, which I sadly didn’t get to try out.
I’d also like to give a shout out to the sound designer. The shots and sound effects are fantastic. You can really hear the force and impact of every shot fired and every explosion. They’ve got a real thump to them and I love it.
Overall, despite initial trepidation about how a shoot ‘em up could be good when it was so completely against what shooters were all about, I came out really enjoying my time with Xenoraid. It’s a surprisingly excellent and fun shooter that kept me completely engaged throughout. It offers a nice ship switching gimmick with a nice variety of fighters and a decently structured narrative that will last you a good few hours even if it may not look the best. Arcade die hards may sneer at the casual nature of Xenoraid, but I really enjoyed it and it’s a nice change of pace from what we’re used to from shooters.
Game provided by 10tons.