Maybe too exotic?
WXP Inc certainly aren’t trying to make things easy on themselves. Releasing their puzzle/shooter Xotic on Xbox Live Arcade in the same month, and even same week, as most of the biggest franchises in gaming. Can this quirky little game pull you away from your multiplayer shooter of choice this fall? Not likely. Xotic has a hard time figuring out what it wants to be, and you might too.
Xotic is a puzzle game, played like a first person shooter. I think. There are also enemies, which play a major part in clearing levels, but there is also a lot of puzzle platforming. I’ll try to explain. Each level in Xotic is a map with a set number of enemies, Scab Plants and other pick-ups. The object of the game is to clear each level with the highest score you can manage. Shooting the red things releases plants and can be combo’ed for bigger scores. The pick-up items can be combo’ed if you stay in the air while picking up every one in a group. The first problem with this is that the groups are not clearly defined. The second is the controls, which are really a problem for the whole game.
Aerial combos are made easier by the ability to drop down a transparent “hard hologram” while jumping. Land on this to keep yourself off the ground. The problem is that Jump is mapped to LB. Annoying. Even more frustrating is that clicking in the right stick drops a hologram. They could not have picked a more cumbersome way to accomplish this. There are also six control schemes to choose from them, none of which help. Jump is LB in almost all of them and crouch is A, which you almost never have to do. It’s not just button placement that is the issue here, turning your view left to right is very slow and the sensitivity cannot be adjusted.
So, shooting red things so that they blow up in combos, then collecting the yellow things is the point. But there are also enemies in each level, and killing all of the enemies is when you will be able to leave the level. So you could, in theory, ignore everything but the enemies and finish the game in an hour or so. This would defeat the purpose as your scores would be fairly low, but you only have leaderboards to compare them with anyway. So is this a puzzle game or an action shooter? I’m not sure, the enemies only purpose seems to be to annoy you while you are trying to complete the puzzle aspects. It’s almost as if the designers realized this as there are, periodically, levels that have time limits rather than enemies.
Each level does earn you experience that you can use to upgrade your secondary weapon, which I pretty much ignored, and raise your health and energy stats. If this is your kind of thing, the progression may keep you around for a bit but I couldn’t see any compelling reason to spend much time on a game that was so cumbersome to control and whose goals were so ill-defined.
There are no multiplayer or co-op modes in Xotic.
If Xotic ends up being your cup of tea, there are some decent challenges offered by the achievements. You won’t be able to just coast through the story to unlock them. Invincible, which is unlocked for Completing a combat level in The Vanishing City without taking any damage, will likely take you a few tries.
Xotic could have been a bit of fun if the controls weren’t so strange. I feel like WXP set out to create a game that was different from any other but lost their way. There are a number of competing themes here that don’t play well with each other. I could recommend any number of better ways to spend your time this November. In fact you’re probably playing one of them right now.