Ever since the Raiden series drained my pockets of change at the local pizza joint when I was a young'n, I've been madly in love with scrolling arcade shooters. Back as far as Zanac for the NES, they have never failed to provide as much action as humanly possible, and this means you'll come back to them time and time again. Personally, Ikaruga rekindled this experience, and now, Xyanide has continued in its tracks.
Kicking alien ass and taking alien names is always a winner of a storyline, sticking generic to take the least amount possible away from the action. Xyanide actually contains a small story line, mostly at the beginning, continued between each level, and for a game of this stature, it's actually quite good. You are Drake, an executioner for the judges of Mardar, who will be transporting a witch named Aguira to the Maelstrom to carry out her sentence... death. The judges of Mardar use the Maelstrom (black hole) to disintegrate those who break the holy laws. Just before launching the criminal from the execution craft, the ship is struck by a large asteroid that contains Xyanide, a substance with a single characteristic: it immediately materializes thoughts. Thus, as Aguira the witch is pierced with the asteroid, having a bountiful supply of Xyanide, she begins to materialize a maze of metal, including hordes of enemy aircraft and large defence mechanisms for the Xyanide, which keeps her running. Now if that doesn't seem awesome, or even awesome is a cheesy way, then just skip the cut-scenes.
Xyanide follows this story line in Arcade mode, bringing you along six levels, four in the space metal world, two in the dingy alien underground. Aguira sends hordes of enemies, coming in different formations, most very intense. The enemies range from the small, which are logically taken care with the primary fire, to the large, which again are logically taken out with secondary fire. Primary and secondary are the same as most scrolling shooters, machine-guns, and rockets. She also sends mid-bosses, usually being a large ship or alien creature with plenty of defence, only penetrable with the right attacks in the right place.
To eliminate the continuous rush of enemies, you have plenty of infinite fire and pick-ups at your disposable. The infinite fire consists of your primary and secondary guns, in either mechanical or organic modes. Obviously, different enemies are weaker against different attacks, which will make you structure a sense of course of action for any situation. The pickups are labelled by colour and by shape. Orange ones are called Mutators, adding a level to your selected mutation path (mechanical or organic), pink ones are power-ups, which run for a limited amount of time and do things like double your attack or defence power, whilst yellow ones simply give you an extra life. The Mutators have a line of attack and defence abilities, making a list that covers almost four pages in the 23-page manual. These mutations are quite a help if used properly, but aren't really all needed in lower levels.
Something that isn't really seen a lot is a 2D/3D hybrid concept. Xyanide flies through a 3D world, but the danger only lies in your 2D realm. Adding the third dimension adds a lot of depth to the game, letting enemies fly in from any way possible. This isn't exactly the greatest idea when it comes to view changes, as it confuses many with the amount that is required to process. It's bearable, and it's also something you get used to over time, mostly focusing in on the enemies in your 2D span. Enemies glow when they are in that span, making it easier to distinguish what you have to avoid. Thus, if it moves, kill it, if it glows, avoid it until you kill it. Most of the bosses, whether they be mid-level or end of level, are off in the distance, all with weak points that become labelled in closer range. The icons in your H.U.D. are plentiful, but over time you will learn them all, and they become a true asset to your success.
Xyanide also features crossroads, allowing you to take an alternate route. Once a rush is over, the maze will seem to split, if you head in a certain direction, you can pick your own route. There are few notable differences in the routes except for length, the enemy count staying the same, thus making it easier if the longer path is chosen. Getting through the rushes earns you plenty of points, which aren't all that completely useless as earning 1,000,000 before losing a life earns you another credit. The points are also another addictive feature to Xyanide, as it's Xbox Live aware, keeping you up to date on your scores, your friends scores, and the worlds scores.
Bright lights and glows, heavily detailed metals and corrugated mazes, and eccentric enemy aircraft surround you throughout Xyanide. The H.U.D. shows you everything you need to know, bringing up cross-hairs for secondary fire, arrows to distant threats, and all of your current weapons, health, lives, credits, points, and specials. The enemy list is short, but the intensity of rushes completely erases the fact that there isn't much variability. The gunfire exchange, explosions, enemy rushes of different sizes, and highly detailed background make for some confusion, but that's where the difficulty is supposed to lay at times, throwing you into a ball of 'discombobulation'.
Indicator sounds let you know when your rockets are loaded, when your power up is about to run out, when your locked on to an enemy, when you've reached 1,000,000 points, and much more. There's a sound for everything, all very useful, none annoying. The music fits the game well, but having the custom playlist feature enabled is always a plus for players like me, who surround themselves with music. For having one person on sound effects and one person on music, Playlogic has done a thorough job of making this game sound incredible.
Xyanide also has level play, unlocked by proceeding in arcade mode. There is a difficulty level for everyone, but for most, apprentice (easy) is probably a good choice, as by the third of six levels, you'll still be challenged. Unlockables also include colour change of your aircraft, and an 'ace' (as hard as trying to survive after forgetting your parachute) mode. The game doesn't have many extras past that.
So if you want an intense shooter with solid ground on every aspect, but nothing special in content or in extras, then pick up Xyanide, and bring yourself back to those local pizza place days, playing the arcade games we all love so much.