Welcome to space, where no-one can hear you scream. That is, welcome to Xenominer, a game by the folks at Gristmill Studios introduced during the Indie Uprising III event on Xbox Live Arcade. Xenominer is a voxel-style base building game that tests your survival in an alien world. Before continuing, this is another voxel game where you can dig and build any structure you can imagine. But if you are expecting another Minecraft clone, you are missing out on a lot if you dismiss it as such.
When Xenominer begins you wake up on an alien world, the lone survivor of a crash. With nothing but your survival suit, a small tank of oxygen, and the messages from an A.I. named DAI-SE you journey into a strange unknown world. A far-out landscape filled bizarre “trees”, floating landscapes, and the odd alien structure or two, there is the possibility of riches buried deep within.
That is all fine and dandy until the local star begins to rise, then you must secrete yourself away into the nearest cave lest you be burnt to an irradiated crisp. While Xenominer does not have hostile mobs in a traditional sense, the dangerous radiation of space will cut short your future plans of galactic conquest if you don’t seek shelter regularly. Hope you like digging, because you will spend the majority of your journey underneath the surface, away from the harmful rays and radiation in your cramped and claustrophobia-inducing underground quarters. At least until you upgrade your gear.
Speaking of upgrades, you have access to a plethora of building options and equipment. You can raise your chances of survival, assuming you have the materials to create them of course. They include suit and oxygen tank upgrades, sturdy building materials, more powerful tools, and even gravity boots. See a piece of iron or diamond on the ceiling? Simply use your gravity boots and walk up the walls, humming the theme song to Spiderman while you are at it.
One feature that stands out from the rest is the use of a robot to do your dirty work. Once you acquire it, the bot can lighten your work load immensely by doing many repetitive tasks for you. You can have it tunnel a mineshaft, build your new space castle, or whatever you want it to do. If you can figure out how to actually program the darn thing, since the interface for it is in alien language. The scripting interface uses a strange pictographic command language which can be a bit daunting to decipher.
For the longest time, I could do nothing but scratch my head while trying to get my own script going. After many fruitless attempts and carefully examining the built-in scripts, I was able to figure out what the symbols meant and began building my own script. When I activated my custom mining script I was as giddy as a schoolgirl as I watched the little bot go about its duties. Soon my galactic headquarters will be complete, with my little bot to do my bidding.
I enjoy this title, and there is very little I have against it. While it does have a lack of ambient music or sound, that suits the outer space setting. Only the ominous tone announcing the rising of the sun or the hum of your mining pick break the silence.
The user interface text is rather difficult to read. I played on a standard definition TV and the majority of the interface was simply too small to be clear. HD users will have no problems, but people who still play on standard sets may have some difficulty reading the HUD.
This review took too long for me to write. I have been playing for the better part of three weeks, and since the Indie Uprising event Gristmill has been able to implement many welcome improvements to the title. I continuously had to revise my views on the game as each patch brought welcome improvements. If you liked it at launch, you will enjoy the game even more so now.
I heartily recommend this title, and at a low 80 Microsoft points you have absolutely no excuse not to pick it up. Go grab it now before Gristmill realize they can charge more.
Go buy it. GO NOW!
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