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Released: 1987

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: Amstrad CPC

Publisher: Hewson Consultants

Developer: Raffaele Cecco

We’ve played some tough little titles in our time at Retro Gamer Towers, but few have proved as challenging as Raffaele Cecco’s Exolon.

Painted in the sort of bright primary colours that wouldn’t look out of place on a set of Duplo bricks, Cecco’s Exolon is a vibrant romp through some of the most treacherous terrain to ever grace an 8-bit title.

Every pixel of ground covered in Exolon is paid for in blood sweat and tears – yet, despite the sheer toughness of the challenge that has been thrown at you, you’d still doggedly fight your way through the gauntlet of increasingly tougher enemies, if only so you could see what Cecco had in store for you on the next screen.

As with Cecco’s follow-up, Cybernoid, Exolon had a futuristic theme, but rather than having to take control of a heavily armed fighter you were cast in the boots of a powered-up space marine. Equipped with a nifty laser and a handy rocket backpack that could be activated by holding down the fire button, your soldier’s task was to simply clear the many obstacles on each screen so he could eventually reach the teleporter at the end of the level.

Simple in concept maybe, but the aforementioned toughness meant this was a far from easy task and many gamers became frustrated with Exolon’s insistence on them having to make the sort of pixel-perfect jumps that would have made miner Willy proud. This was a task not helped by the slow leap your soldier would take whenever you pressed “up” – still, this was deep space after all, so he was hardly going to be leaping around with all the grace of an African gazelle…

For me, Exolon’s difficulty was just the right side of challenging and, while it could sometimes be infuriatingly frustrating, I’d constantly find myself returning to it. Maybe I’ve got a higher tolerance than other gamers, or, more likely, I’m just a sucker for bright flashy graphics…

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