Posted September 30, 2013 by Peter in Eurogamer Expo

Xenolith Hands-On Preview

Xenolith logo
Xenolith logo

Older gamers – myself included – often complain about how games are getting easier, how old titles could be unforgiving and how much more skill we used to have when fighting through old arcade titles. And do you know what? Sometimes we need games like Xenolith to show us not only are there still challenging games out there, but that we were probably not as skilful as we remember…

Developed by Snowbolt Interactive, Xenolith sets the player down on the surface of a planet being attacked by enemies shaped like triangles, squares and pentagons. Your only defence is to ram these ships – but unless you match their shape, you will take damage, needing not only quick reflexes but quick identification to stay alive.

In it’s current beta state the game modes cover several difficulties of a standard “destroy enemies as they attack” mode that gets harder as you progress, and an OTT survival mode which makes lasting any time at all feel a triumph – at least, until one of the devs plays and makes the fumblings of a new player look brief and clumsy…
Xenolith screen
The game is unforgiving, but in a positive way. Games are likely to last only a few minutes – often, seconds – but encourage quick replays too. It fits well with other games intended for quick bursts of play and quicker deaths, like Waves on PC or Geometry Wars on XBL. Indeed, comparisons have been made between this to the pacifist mode in Geometry Wars 2, although on playing Xenolith only the quick games and reactions needed are a decent comparison; the gameplay itself differs greatly.

It’s also surprisingly compelling – seeing the scores set by other players on the Eurogamer stand in games lasting less than two minutes, the desire to stop and beat those times was strong… especially knowing that if – or when – the attempt failed retrying would be very quick.

Xenolith is due for release in 2014; in the meantime, a campaign is being run to get the game Greenlit on Steam.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.