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r0x review

July 12, 2009

r0x_1

When news of this game first broke, I took one look at the screenshots over at RGCD and thought to myself: ‘Wow! A new shoot ’em up for the ST!’ as this is the first action game released for the ST for some time, and I was very excited. However, SimonSunnyBoy pointed out to me that r0x was not a shooter, but in fact an avoid-em-up, and a closer look at said screenshots and their lack of bullets (or any kind of projectyle) confirmed this. I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.

With r0x nominated for season 2, round 21 of STOT (ST Off-line Tournament), I put my disappointment behind me and set about trying to get a high score and, boy! How miss-placed was my disappointment?

Scrape me, do it, oh do it again. Whoa-oh-oh scrape me...

Scrape me, do it, oh do it again. Whoa-oh-oh scrape me...

r0x is an extremely well presented vertically scrolling avoid ’em up where rocks (hence the title) fly down the screen towards your delicate little craft. Amongst this asteroid field are also crystalline rocks that can be mined for points, bombs which can be picked up and used to clear the screen at hairy moments, lettered collectables spelling ‘EXTRA’ that boost your life count, stranded astronauts who offer a score bonus, and extra lives. As the pace picks up in the second half of the level, you must be on your toes to be able to differentiate these from hazards, and react accordingly.

r0x_4

Thanks to the super-smooth movements of all the sprites in the game combined with plentiful extra lives and life-saving bombs, this game would be quite straight forward and, dare I say it, easy. However, in a devilish twist of design inspired by modern shooters like Bangai-O and Psyvariar II, in order to glean the highest scores from this game you are forced to put your ship into danger. Huge bonuses are awarded for scraping your wings against the rocks as they fly past. It is an inspired addition to the gameplay: your ship’s hit-box (area of vulnerability) does not include the vehicle’s stubby wings, so if you risk getting your craft’s vulnerable hull close enough to the rocks so that your wings are touching them, huge bonuses and scores never before possible await you.

It is this play mechanic that separates r0x from its peers, and elevates it beyond the realm of any standard shooter. As you play, you constantly weigh up the risks and rewards of scraping a particular rock, ready to peel off at a moments notice to avoid an oncoming maelstrom or to dash across the screen for that ‘X’ you’ve been desperate to collect for the past two levels.

r0x_3

r0x features some truly elegant pixelling, especially evident in the r0x themselves where the artist has created some lovely effects using the limited palette available. All the sprites are well realised and easily recognised, even when hurtling at you at high speed. Accompanying the striking visuals and dizzyingly addictive gameplay is a rocking soundtrack provided by aural luminaries Crazy-Q, DMA-SC, and TomChi. As the readme instructs, attaching a loud sound system to your STE is essential.

Which brings me to the only down point of this whole package: the system requirements. r0x needs an STE with at least 2MB of RAM to run, which may prove to be a barrier to those hoping to play the game on real hardware. However, Heavy Stylus has provided a version that is bundled with STeem – the excellent Atari STE emulator – and a batch file that runs r0x on a Windows machine using the ideal STeem setup, making r0x easily accessible to those without a 2MB STE or emulating experience.

r0x_5

Add to all this an excellent two-player VS. mode and some hidden content to be unlocked by the best r0x scrapers and I’m left with only one conclusion: r0x, disappointing? Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Head over to the RGCD web site to see for yourself.

Score:

Gameplay footage

Further reading

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7 comments

  1. Hey Stickhead,
    A great review as always but I have a few things I’d like to point out. First of all it was round 21 of STOT and Xerus won! (I got second place and beat heavy stylus 🙂 ). Secondly the 2MB of RAM is a no issue. Anyone who will play the game in real h/w has already 4MB’s of RAM since STE’s are ridiculously easy and cheap to upgrade. Other than that it’s a beautiful game, very addictive and hopefully we’ll see more from these authors.


    • Thanks for the STOT correction, ChrisTOS. Now edited! And thanks for the kind comment!

      I know most hardcore ST fans will have 4mb STEs, but maybe not more casual gamers, or those with a broader interest in older machines. Still, I take your point on board.


  2. Also like to thank you for the great review. I also felt the same when I first saw the game at the Outline party. A Asteroids without shooting? How boaring I thought, but this flying close to the asteroids is really a challenging addition to the gameplay.

    The best ATARI gaming maschine is a Mega STE with 4 MB, cause it has the joystick ports seperated on the keyboard and the floppy drive is on the front side, unfortunately it has no extra joystick ports like the 1040STE


    • I’d love a Mega STE, if only for the superior keyboard. Bloody broke at the minute though!

      Thanks for the positive comments.


  3. Thx for the review 😀 even if the score is maybe overrated…
    Our project was to release a little game without any pretention that would change from previous gfabasic releases. I’m happy with the final result which needed much more time than what i thought first. Tho, that’s not the kind of game one would play many times except if competing for the STOT round or being conceptor/tester of the game ;). Anyway, thx to anyone giving r0x a go !!!!


    • Hi TomChi, great to have you on board!

      I wasn’t being patronising when I awarded the score I did. Sure, r0x doesn’t offer the level of content of games like Civ, Frontier or whatever, but that’s not how I rate games. Taking into account what the game is trying to achieve, or rating it on how it fits into its particular gaming niche is far more informative. r0x is a solid little package, instantly accessible and incredibly addictive. Yes, it’s not going to swallow your life whole like a game of Oblivion, but it stands up to some real close scrutiny and offers up a heap of fun. Bravo, Mr TomChi! What’s your next project? ; )


  4. This is a great little game. Well done! 🙂



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