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Released: 1987

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Atari Games

Developer: Ed Logg

Xybots is one of those games that no one appears to love as much as I do. Ever since I first spied it in a Porthcawl arcade – we went there a lot as kids – I’ve been totally transfixed by the frantic blaster and even went so far as to securing an actual arcade machine (although this was nipped in the bud as soon as the missus saw just how big it was).

Originally starting off life as Gauntlet III, Ed Logg’s initial idea was rejected when Atari decided that blowing up huge robots was more fun than taking out grunts and demons. While I don’t necessarily agree with the final decision, I’m still glad Logg went ahead with the project, as, for me, it’s easily one of his best achievements.

Sure you can see the nods to Gauntlet (players still descend down into the next new stage) and you could argue that the fiddly controls and simplistic maze design mean that Xybots is a case of plenty of style and no real substance, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with you. A good player could soon get used to quickly navigating around Xybots’ many levels, and that twisting joystick was actually pretty easy to use once you knew what you were doing.

Still, it was the excellent multiplayer mode that really elevated the gameplay, and there was nothing better than clearing a stage full of enemies with a friend by your side – except, of course, for nicking all the goodies while his back was turned.

With its clever pseudo-3D visuals, raucous sound effects and hectic gameplay, Xybots proves itself to be a thoroughly entertaining blaster that requires a surprising amount of brainwork if you want to nab all the best bonuses before your friend. It also went on to receive some pretty damned good conversions, with the Atari Lynx and Amiga being particularly impressive. Ultimately though, it’s the arcade version I have fondest memories of and thanks to Midway’s excellent Arcade Treasures 2, I’m still playing it two decades later.

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