(DSiWare)

X-Scape (DSiWare)

Game Review

X-Scape Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

One of DSiWare's best and most ambitious adventures yet

If X-Scape is any indication, Nintendo should encourage more developers to revisit the deepest depths of their back catalogue and make sequels to their obscurest of games.

This here is the follow-up to the 1992 Japan-only Game Boy release X. The original was developed by Dylan Cuthbert's former studio Argonaut Software, whose 3D technology so impressed Nintendo that they were brought aboard to help develop a project that led to the original Star Fox.
This DSiWare sequel was developed by Cuthbert's current studio Q-Games, whose past work on the service includes the uniformly excellent Art Style: Intersect/Digidrive, Reflect Missle and Starship Patrol. But, aside from X, the strongest influence felt here is Star Fox: X-Scape feels much like a spiritual successor to McCloud's SNES adventure through its combat, Andross-esque villain and companion who just won't shut up.

The events of the sequel take place 20 years after those in X. Considering how that game was never released in English, the odds are strongly in favour of you having no idea what went down. Lucky us, then, that the game handily explains. In the world of X, mankind was faced with quite the predicament: explosive population growth had outpaced the available natural-energy resources necessary to maintain itself, so the human race headed out into space in search of new resources and discovered power crystals nestled in the planet Tetamus II. Angry aliens called the xenomantix attacked the planet, which led to you and your commander helping to fight them off and win the conflict. You were both declared war heroes, and he stayed behind on Tetamus II as you decided to go out and explore the (very) far-away stars for a while in your XIVIX spacecraft. After cruising around for a decade, you then spent another decade in cryostasis on the way back to Tetamus II, and upon arrival you learn that your former commander buddy has become the galaxy's evil Emperor. He tries to kill you, which you don't find too cool, and thus begins the sequel.

X-Scape is mainly divided into two types of sections: free-movement planet exploration and tunnel travel. When on planets, you'll zip about both on land and in the air taking down enemies and looking for power crystals. Collect enough crystals and a warp gate to another planet will open. Once inside a warp gate, you need to fly and blast your way through a tunnel portion on a tight time limit. Obstacles will come zooming out of the walls and will slow you down if you bop into them, so it's of high interest to boost your typically low timer. This limit can be increased by seconds at a time by collecting small discs littered about or by shooting enemies and grabbing the ones left leave behind. Reaching the end of a tunnel will pop you out onto a planet and into another free-roaming bit.

By default, your vehicle is controlled using the stylus and with one button (any button) for shooting. When airborne you mostly control your reticule, and turning is done by pushing it to the side of the screen, similar to DS first-person shooters like Dementium. While on the ground, it switches from controlling the reticule to directional acceleration (i.e., to move forward or back, push the stylus towards the top or bottom of the screen respectively). It's a slightly awkward setup for the first hour or so until you get used to it, and it never quite lends the same precision as it would lead you to believe. Hitting a moving target at a different elevation can be overly tricky, especially if you're on the ground, but thankfully the auto-lock targeting helps alleviate some of those troubles. Turn speed, however, is a little less zippy than we would have liked, making you feel like an airborne tank rather than a lethal space ace. There's an all-button option as well if you're not a fan of the touch controls; some might prefer it, but it felt more clunky and confusing when switching between flight and land controls to this reviewer.

There are quite a lot of planets to explore and consequently a lot of tunnels to traverse as you aid the rebellion, blow stuff up and increase your rank. You begin at a lowly F, and your rank is directly tied to your score: completing the story and numerous side missions, hacking buildings as well as blowing stuff up, will increase it and reward a ship upgrade at each promotion. Certain warp tunnels and side missions require you to be a specific level before proceeding, lending some necessity to completing the assorted side missions on each planet. You'll be doing a good amount of backtracking across planets to fulfill your objectives; as there isn't any fast-travel option, you'll wind up having to go through a lot of the same tunnels over and over again. Not so bad if you love the tunnel sections, but a faster way to get around would have been appreciated.

Undoubtedly striking is the minimalist visual style, lending a strong Tron vibe to the world. Each planet is essentially constructed in the same way, but what makes them stand apart is their unique two-toned color schemes. Some of these combinations look fantastic whereas others are eyesores and Virtual Boy hangovers. It's somewhat inconsistent, but inevitable given the imposed palette limitations. The techno soundtrack, on the other hand, is excellent across the board and really fits the minimalist-futuristic theme the game shoots for.

Conclusion

Despite the occasional visual and control quirks, X-Scape is, quite simply, a fantastic follow-up to a game that the West barely knew. Loaded with content, ambitious and borderline experimental in aesthetic, it's got enough meat on its bones to rival a lot of retail releases and certainly stands tall on DSiWare. For a heaping helping of space blasting and a glimpse into what a portable Star Fox of 2010 might look like in the hands of those who helped mould the original, X-Scape is a bargain at 800 points and essential playing for DSiWare.

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User Comments (52)

xAlias

#1

xAlias said:

I'm downloading it... Great Review, Jonathan! Star Fox 2010, Here I come!

irken004

#2

irken004 said:

Very good game indeed. DSiware needs more like this! I do think that, due to the game's length, this should have been 500 points. A minor nitpick, but otherwise the game is fantastic.

Wolfcoyote

#3

Wolfcoyote said:

I agree with the criticism regarding some of the two-tone color schemes as some of them go great together while others cause the landscape to be painful to navigate or are just visually displeasing. Still, not bad at all for 800 points.

WolfRamHeart

#6

WolfRamHeart said:

This game looks really good! I haven't bought a DSiWare game in ages. I may have to get this.

gameking23

#7

gameking23 said:

This is by far one of the best games I have downloaded. Keep up the good work Q-games.

Leshclen

#8

Leshclen said:

The question in my head when I clicked on this page wasn't whether it would be good or bad, it was if this would get a 9 or a 10.

Favorite DSiware game so far.

zionich

#9

zionich said:

Its going to be this or Heroes of Sparta, once i see its review ill decide.

Sylverstone

#11

Sylverstone said:

I thought it was going to get a 10.....

Great game anyway!

(And I'm pretty sure the ship is called the VIXIV, not the XIVIX ;))

Slapshot

#12

Slapshot said:

Hmm.... havent turned on the DSi in forever, may have to give this a try at some point. Great Review Jonathan.

brandonbwii

#13

brandonbwii said:

@zionich
I really don't think Hero of Sparta will get a good score. If it wasn't received well as an iphone and PSP game, which it wasn't, I highly doubt the DSi version will be any good.

MeloMan

#15

MeloMan said:

@ brandonbwii and zionich
I'm pretty much in the same boat as I would like to see what Hero of Sparta gets. I have a feeling X-Scape is the better buy of the two. Besides, I ran through Gameloft's Legends of Exidia and came back with a "...meh" feeling for such a fast adventure game... I'm hoping GS's Hero of Sparta will at least "try" to be better. Review please!

1upsuper

#16

1upsuper said:

Great review. Glad I downloaded it on Monday. How do you guys say VIXIV? Personally I say 594. It's easier than saying "vee eye ex eye vee" or "vixiv."

GammaGames

#17

GammaGames said:

I would expect this much from Q-Games. They always do great games, but, i have to pass. Don't like the colors, and I want Rytmik (come to US soon!)

realar

#18

realar said:

Excellent review dude!!
It was destined the same amount of stars as Flipnote and Pictobits.
X-Scape rules!!
@GammaGames You're picky, so what if it has wiird colors that's not the idea of the game.

EdEN

#21

EdEN said:

Ok, I'll be getting this tonight since I'm going out of town on a work related trip and need something to kill of the small amount of free time I might get.

CanisWolfred

#22

CanisWolfred said:

Again, everything Q Games makes that isn't a racing game is a masterpiece, and that's a fact.

Dodger

#24

Dodger said:

Darn. You made this sound too good. Now I want to get a points card and I want to spend my money on SSBB. I will probably skip this for a while just because I want to get more wii games. I don't have many yet.

cheapogamer4life

#25

cheapogamer4life said:

This game is full of PURE AWESOMNESS!
btw, good review
@ Q games:
thanks for this one. Cant wait for your next hit for the DSware service
grand slam maybe? :p

Phobos

#26

Phobos said:

I... need... to... get... this. Now. :-D The review makes it sound so intriguing and complex, I just can not resist. Looks like a dark game too! Great review, Jonathan!

Karakato

#27

Karakato said:

The game TRULY deserves that score. The game would have been a 10 for me if it wasn't for the Pink levels, they are an eye strainer and the controls that take some getting used to. Everything else was executed flawlessly making this 9 in my opinion.

Discipledoctor

#28

Discipledoctor said:

Man, Q Games ALWAYS does good stuff, huh? I love Digidrive and Trajectile, guess I'll buy this one too. Nice review!

SmaMan

#30

SmaMan said:

An X sequel?!!! AAAAAH!!! :D

I think this is the closest I've ever gotten to buying a DSi! But no, I must wait till I get more money and after the 3DS comes out... still, an X Sequel!!!

grumblegrumble

#33

grumblegrumble said:

Downloaded this on a whim since I love Q-Games' "Trajectile" and "DigiDrive"... WOW. Totally blown away!! Great game, totally worth twice this much on a retail release... Seems like a full blown DS game. I love the colors and stylings in this game, very reminiscent of TRON (if you don't know what movie that is there's a sequel coming this Winter that's 25 years overdue.) FANTASTIC!! I give it a 10! It's an action shooter but it is a very well done one at that! Many different levels, the tunnel sequences are amazing... the star chart, the weapons, the upgrades, the enemies, motherships... hacking, the storyline... everything is just done so well here. I normally don't advise people to download immediately but this is an INSTANT RECOMMENDATION for everyone! A+! This is the game other companies should be trying to beat!

realar

#36

realar said:

I will warn you guys that the battle against the 'Emperor' is HARD, you'll be frustrated to no end I won't spoil why because it's a huge turning point in the story. Not that getting awesome weapons and abilities isn't a great turning point. Bombs kick ass! Always available and just need to charge up to obtain! A nuclear blast on tap. Excellent. My problem wasn't the colors it was that you can't turn fast enough to blast things in turret mode. Colors gave it a unique feel and biological aspect about it that chemicals in the planets affect everything around it. -Written on a DSi.

grumblegrumble

#37

grumblegrumble said:

OK I am stuck on the planet that has the huge green mothership with the emperial fighters fluttering about... The planet has two names, can't remember off the top of my head. But how do u beat the mothership before it crashes into the base? Seems like I keep shooting and shooting and nothing works fast enough. Help!

EdEN

#43

EdEN said:

Game has a lot of content, specially if you add in the quests you get from the central structure in each planet. Would have been 1,000 points if released by a 3rd party.

sam322

#45

sam322 said:

after reading many reviews and seeing a couple of videos,i really want to purchase this and i will right now!

SAMUS

#46

SAMUS said:

I tried it out on my friends DSI and I really loved it!!! I started playing in the middle of the game an I was just as good as my friend at it(witch is really good).I am totaly getting it this weekend!!!

Birthday_Boy

#48

Birthday_Boy said:

I don't know X looks like it'll give you headaches.
Over the many games I played on DS X Scape is first. The graphics compare to some wii games (And not just the mediocore)

XCWarrior

#52

XCWarrior said:

Heard great things about this game on a podcast recently. Published by Nintendo, would be nice to see on Club Nintendo down the road.

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