It had to happen. After years of being shot, stabbed, incinerated, blown up and mangled, the aliens have finally decided to get their own back. And what a spectacular revenge; Rex is a splendiferously violent visual feast, a joystick-bendingly difficult challenge to the reactions, and an all-round jolly enjoyable experience.
Fed up with Earthmen refusing to pay their space parking fines, littering the asteroid belts and singing I Should Be So Lucky in the cosmic pubs, a confederation of aliens has sensibly decided to wipe out the whole lot of them. To do the job they've hired Rex, an alien mercenary who eats kittens for breakfast and who makes Kamikaze Bear look like Andy Pandy (GRRRRR... KB).
Rex is a high-tech rhinocerous armed with a formidable array of weapons, and his final task in the alien/human war is to destroy Mankind's last stronghold, the lower Zenith. He takes on the job with relish (and a little mayonnaise on the side).
The game loads in two parts;you carry your score, weapons and attributes over to the second half using an access code.
Although the game features many of the attributes of Cybernoid, Exolon and several other recent titles, it looks quite different because all the graphics are on a small scale. This allows a huge amount of features to be packed into each screen. Fortunately, the characters and backgrounds are all excellently designed, so the sense of huge scale comes across very well.
Rex can walk and jetpack through the air, finally floating to the ground under the effect of gravity. Both he and the spacesuited humans are single-colour. while the backgrounds are a riot of colour and details; belching missile projectors, mortars, rock faces, equipment modules, tunnels, tube trains and the like.
Stage two, the Living Tower, also features revolving organic components including writhing pink tentacles which are deadly to touch. Rex starts his quest in an underground chamber, appearing in a teleporter and immediately blazing away to take out the nearby weapons systems. A small arrow indicates the exit from the screen (some have multiple exits), and as you appear on the new screen you should switch on your energy shield by pulling back on the joystick, in case a missile is aiming straight for your horn.
The shield runs out of energy as you use it. To recharge it you have to pick up energy bubbles left by destroyed emplacements and men. The laser-firing spacemen jerk backwards and expire messily when you shoot them; I must admit that this is one of the major fun points of the game. If you get killed yourself, the results are even more spectacular; an eyeball-quivering series of explosions which are worth seeing, even if it does mean losing a life.
Fortunately, there are lots of lovely weapons to be picked up from equipment holders, which let you stave off your inevitable destruction a little longer. Double and triple-firers, multi-way firers, and whirling defence pads help you to mow down the humans with even greater efficiency. The more energy you have, the faster/further/wider your weapons fire.
There are also Zaps to be picked up; these act like smart-bombs, clearing an entire screen of enemies, and so should be saved carefully. It's tremendous fun working your way through the screens, using the anti-grav elevators, blast-away rocks and floating platforms to reach the Tower of Zenith and blow it to bits.
The only disappointment is the poor sound; there are no effects at all when you fire, and only a standard plip-plip-plip when anything explodes. Still, you can't have everything (unless you're Jim Douglas trying to decide what to order at Macdonald's). It's also annoying that you restart at the start of a stage, rather than on the same screen, when you lose a life. This means you have to renegotiate screens you've already completed, which I find a pain. Otherwise, Rex is marvellous fun if shooty-shooty arcade adventures are your bag. Obviously the product of some well experienced programmers, but for the moment, the identity of programming team The Light remains a closely-guarded secret. Look out for their next one.
Author: The Light
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Devastating debut of death-dealing and destruction.