Internet Arcade: Xenophobe
Xenophobe is a 1987 arcade game developed and published by Bally Midway. Starbases, moons, ships, and space cities are infested with aliens,
and the players have to kill the aliens before each is completely
overrun. The screen is split into three horizontally-scrolling windows,
one for each of up to three players, yet all players are in the same
The goal of each level is to defeat all the aliens before time runs
out. Some rooms routinely display the percentage of alien infection and
time remaining until self-destruct when the level ends (but a nearby
button can temporarily deactivate the count-down). Levels may contain
more than one floor, and players use elevators (and sometimes holes in
the floor) to move between floors to defeat all of the aliens. Players
can also pick up more powerful weapons and other items to help in their
eradication of the aliens.
The hostile aliens (known as "Xenos") come in different forms. There are "Eggs" (similar to the eggs in Alien).
If an Egg hatches, it creates a "Critter" which can attach itself to
the player and drain health. If a Critter is not killed, it eventually
matures into a "Roller" (a cross between a lizard, caterpillar, and
armadillo). Rollers are one of the tougher enemies, as they can ball
themselves up and roll around while impervious to the players' guns.
Rollers sometimes grow into the "Warrior" Xeno form, which attacks by
leaping and requires multiple hits to kill from most weapons. Warriors
are able to spit damaging acid across rooms (and sometimes into adjacent
rooms). This acid also drips from the ceiling in some rooms. They also
have a devastating leap attack that will knock down and disarm. One of
the more insidious attacks in a Warrior's arsenal is its ability to
disarm a player. Simply walking past a Warrior can cause the player's
gun to drop to the floor (destroying it if still in a doorway). Other
Xenos include "Tentacles" that randomly appear from the deck or ceiling,
and trap or strangle the player respectively, and the arguably toughest
enemy is a Xeno "Queen" which appears either in doorways or behind
certain backgrounds and throws proto-eggs at the players and shoots
hypnotic eye beams which trap players and drain their health. If the
proto-egg lands on a screen with a player, it grows into another Egg,
which eventually hatches into a Critter as usual. Any biological kinship
between Warrior Xenos and Queen Xenos, and whether the Tentacles
growing in the ducting are part of the Queen Xenos, is merely implied.
There are much larger alien carcasses the player can walk past or
through but they only appear as part of the background.
The weapons a player collects are fairly diverse. In order of damage,
the weapons are: punch (unarmed), phazer (the starting weapon), laser
pistol, lightning rifle, gas gun, and grenades. The guns tend to trade
power for range. The one exception to this is the phaser, which has
medium range and very low damage. Great care has to be taken with the
grenades, as they bounce off walls and doors and can hit the player who
threw it, or even other players. None of the guns can hurt other
players, but punching can, and makes the punched player fall down, and
drop the gun he was carrying, which the attacker is then free to pick
up. Whenever a player's gun is lost and destroyed (such as by dropping
it in a doorway), a small robot wheels into his room and dispenses a
random gun for him to use. The laser pistol lends itself to a
conservative play style, keeping opponents at range and moving through
levels slowly (often crouched) while the gas gun encourages faster
moving play since the player must close quickly to eliminate foes.
As players go through the various maps (Rocket Ship, Moon Base, Space
City, etc.), they encounter various items to be picked up. Some (human
skulls, lab vials, fire extinguishers, etc.) are only for bonus points
at the end of the level. Others (grenades, knives, food) are immediately
useful to the players (grenades for throwing, will inflict instant
death on Xenos and damage on a player; a knife will cut a player free of
Tentacles, killing them in the process; and food replenishes the
players' health). Still other items (disks, tools, ID tags, codes, etc.)
are useful in the right room. For example, the tools fix the
always-malfunctioning grenade dispenser (which constantly throws out
live grenades), the disk allows a player to use a teleportation device,
the ID tag will deactivate security obstacles and the code enables a
player to set a self-destruct sequence to destroy a base instead of
letting the Xenos take it over. In this case, the players receive a
reduced reward compared with a victory, but if the Xenos take over,
there is no reward. Items collected are counted, and bonus points
awarded for each collected. Grenades carry over from level to level.
Each credit gives the player a certain amount of health, which counts
down even without combat. Food and some rooms replenish a player's
health. The game cycles through levels, increasing the difficulty each
cycle, until all players died and no-one continued. It is entirely
possible to do well enough to continue playing without adding more
This game was unusual in that it split the single monitor into three
separate horizontal sections, one for each player. This allows the
players to cooperate, but also allows the separate players to wander
around freely, a feature not found on most cooperative multiplayer
games. With most games that allowed multiple players at once, all
players were bound by the edges of the screen (that is, all the players
had to be in the same general area on the screen, so it could contain
them all). Because the game features such high resolution for its time, the split screen did not detract from the game's graphic appeal.
There are nine characters to choose from in Xenophobe, three for
each joystick. The leftmost controller (red) offers Mr. M.Brace, Dr.
Kwack, and Col. Poupon. The middle controller (yellow) offers Mr. Fogg,
Col F. Truth, and Dr. Udderbay. The right controller (blue) offers Mr.
Eeez, Dr. Zordiz, and Col. Schickn. Humans and aliens alike make up the
playable characters—for instance, Dr. Kwack has a duck's head. Players
are also color-coded; for instance, the left player's choices wear red
shirts, middle player's yellow, right player's blue.