Xenoraid, from developer 10Tons, is a vertical scrolling shoot-em-up that seeks to mix up the formula a bit by adding the ability to switch between four different ships at any time during a mission. Each ship comes with its own unique weapons and missiles, as well as its own upgrades corresponding to their arsenal.
The four ships you can choose from varies depending on the set of main levels you choose, of which there are five. Along with the individual ship upgrades there are also universal upgrades which help make the game easier in various ways, but upgrades are reset each time you start a new set of levels.
Besides the main game mode there is also a non-stop survival mode, which gives you specific ships depending on the planet you choose, and a specific amount of money to spend on upgrades, then tasks you with surviving as long as possible.
Unlike the main mode the survival mode contains a score count, which can then be uploaded to an online leaderboard. Both of these modes also support co-op play for up to four people.
The core gameplay is everything you would expect from a shoot-em-up, potentially tons of enemies and bullets on screen, but the ability to switch ships at will adds a new layer of strategy to the tried and true formula. Switching ships not only gives you different weapons, some of which being better in different situations, but it also gives you a sort of dodge as your old ship leaves and the new one comes in.
The game itself plays well, and has a good amount of intensity, especially in the more difficult levels. The varying ships and option to switch at will made the game feel like it required at least a bit of strategy, but I found some of the ships to be obviously stronger than other ones, and I ended up favoring them over others.
Where Xenoraid falters is in the presentation department, mainly its ship design. The graphics are not terrible, and they serve the game well, but the ships, both enemy and player ones, and just plain and lacking in diversity. The design isn’t terrible per se, and the look of the enemies give a good idea of their attacks, but everything just looks so plain.
Compared to other games of this type, which often contain memorable and over-the-top designs, this just feels forgettable. The same goes for the music, it was such a non-entity I forgot it was even there half the time.
It’s a shame to because the gameplay is great, and I found it to be quite fun even in the more difficult stages. Of course going for the hi-score in survival mode is also a good time, but the similar enemy designs can make it feel repetitive after too long.
Overall Xenoraid is a mixed bag, the gameplay feels and plays well, and can be a blast at times. The game however is severely brought down by its bland presentation and lacking variety in enemy design.
Fans of the genre however can still find some enjoyment out of it I think, and as a cheap, bite-size experience it can be a good game to jump into once in a while on the go if you play the Switch version like I did. Unfortunately, with its issues it is far from an exceptional experience, but it is a fun one nonetheless. 7/10
*This review is based on the Switch version of the game, it is also available on PS4, PSVita, Xbox One, PC, and Android and IOS devices*