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A'n'F Software
1986
Arcade: Action
£8.95
Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

84
Gwyn Hughes
Chris Bourne

You can play a lot of outdoor, action-packed, downright bloodthirsty sports from the safety and warmth of your overheating Spectrum power supply... and that includes some that haven't yet been invented.

It's bad enough that every time you turn on the telly there's some double jointed aerobics freak in a leotard throwing darts with their toes while knocking crown green bowls across the mud with a snooker cue. Now they're predicting the telly sports of the future on the micros of today.

But I confess - I might give Xeno a look in. And I'd definitely play it! After all, any game that was devised by bored miners on the frozen planet of to can be expected to have a certain sort of rugged charm.

Xeno comes with a reproduction of the programme notes from the 2386 Championships, which briefly recall the game's history.

It isn't overburdened with rules. In fact, it boils down to one old favourite - get the puck between your opponents posts. Yes, it's disk versus disk duelling, with no holds barred.

Rather strangely, play alternates between the opponents at intervals of a few seconds. It forces you to react very, very fast if you're going to make an effective move.

Controlling the disks is also strange. Instead of just skimming across the surface, you project a cursor, which is joined to the disk by a dotted line. When you've set your target, you press fire and hey Presto - you shoot off as if the line was extra-high grade knicker elastic!

It takes a lot of skill to get this just right, because your momentum carries you on, and if you hit the wall of the diamond shaped field you'll rebound. But, rather like snooker, you can put this to your advantage to get behind the puck or obstruct your opponent from an otherwise impossible position.

Xeno plays fast and frantic. So much so that you'd be advised to use the two player option just to practice controlling your skimmer and judging where to hit the puck to get it to shoot off at the angle you want. But once you're into it, it will really grab you.

My only real grumble is with the control. The pitch, seen in perspective 3D, complete with shading, centres on the puck. If you zoom down to one end, or get left behind at the other, you can't see where you are. This makes guiding your cursor near impossible, and valuable seconds are lost while you regain control.

Xeno is one of the best of the future sports games. It somehow feels right, and that should keep you coming back for more.

8/10
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