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X-Scape - DSiWare Review

Game Info
X-Scape (a.k.a. 3D Space Tank)

DSiWare | Nintendo | 1 Player | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
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3rd June 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Picture the scene: 20 years ago you helped humanity fight off an alien race bent on controlling the cosmos. Years later, after making plenty of discoveries across the galaxy, you head into cryosleep for a full decade, unaware of what awaits you when you awake. This back-story is what sets the stage for X-Scape, an action-packed adventure game brought to you by the developers of Starship Defense and Trajectile, two other great DSiWare offerings. Not only does X-Scape look cool, but it has first-rate gameplay to back it up too.

    You take on the role of an unnamed pilot of the VIXIV, a multi-purpose fighter unit. At the start of the game, your loyal robot companion will introduce himself to you and he'll accompany you on your travels. As you awake, you'll find yourself en route to a planet shrouded in mystery. Once you do arrive, you're not exactly given a warm welcome by your once-trusted partner. You'll soon find yourself tangled up in a war against an oppressive empire being controlled by someone you were well-acquainted with. Your adventure will take you to different planets in search of clues pertaining to this tough nemesis, and even assist nations that are feeling the effects of the empire's dominion.

    Your training will begin within the Training Tunnel and here you'll get a feel for the first of the two main phases in the game. So here in 'Tunnel Mode', you'll be tied to a countdown timer, and it's up to you to escape the confined area within the time limit provided. Along the way will be various traps that will come up in different places to slow you down. Generally, you should always have a sufficient amount of time to reach the end. Along the way, you'll find time coins along the way or hidden inside enemies, and these extend the limit even further. If you have any spare time when you cross the goal, you'll earn some points.

The second phase is known as 'Free-Movement Mode' where you control your armored vehicle by means of a first-person view, navigating through 3D environments. By default, you'll make use of the touch screen to control movement. Simply drag your stylus in the direction you'd like to travel and your vehicle will get moving. To fire your standard gun, you can press any button you like, whether it be the D-Pad, the ABYX buttons, or the L/R triggers. It may seem rather foreign at first but trust me, after continued exposure, you'll get used to it. But in the event that you just can't come to grips with it, movement can be mapped to the D-Pad by selecting 'Button Mode' under the Options menu. 

    The touch screen also acts as your control panel whereby you can complete various functions. For one, the circle in the very middle acts as a radar of your surroundings, presenting various icons such as triangles, communication towers and flashing symbols to help you comprehend what's nearby. By pressing the area in the top-right hand corner, you can activate missiles which replace your normal weapon. When you're near a data core, you can tap the flashing tower icon in the bottom-left to hack it and gather info.

    Lots of enemies abound in this game, and there's a good sense of variety too. You'll encounter laser-shooting turrets, spider-like creatures, tanks, clusters of spaceships, and many more. At times, you'll even encounter menacing bosses that prove to be more of a challenge. Normally, your ship's cursor will travel along a horizontal axis as you move around, but once an enemy is within range, the cursor will lock onto it automatically, which is great.

    With e
very enemy you defeat, special energy units known as "shield-repair cubes" will fly out onto the playing field. You can collect these simply by moving close to them, and these will add to your cumulative point total. Every point gets you closer and closer to reaching a level-up, and your progress is displayed in percentile form on the touch screen. Once you make the required amount, you'll earn a new grade-level rank along with the ability to improve one of three different attributes: Shot Power, Shot Speed, and Shields. The upgrade system is great, giving you a sense of progression.

    Now, it's important to keep in mind that the VIXIV isn't just for land exploration; your ship can also transform into its flight form and take to the skies. To do this, you'll need to drive off special ramps after reaching a good clip of speed. While you're airborne, your shields will deplete gradually, unless you're in aerial-combat mode as part of a specific mission. Eventually, though, you'll unlock a jetpack that will enable you to fly on demand simply by tapping the touch screen twice.

    Journeying to various planets in the Kiisa system, you'll observe just how different each area is. True all of them make use of polygonal structures, enemies and landscaping elements. However, there are some unique environmental differences that ensure that no two planets are the same. For instance, one planet features regularly-occuring sandstorms that will mess up your visibility and decrease mobility by 40%. In other areas, excess gravity will prevent you from flying, or solar flares will block your radar temporarily. I also loved how each area features a different colour palette, just further adding to X-Scape's great sense of variety.

There's a bunch of places to explore in the game, and they're all tracked via the Star Chart under the Pause Menu. In order to gain access to new areas, you'll need to collect hidden Power Crystals on each planet to open up Warp Gates. These will allow you to travel to other planets by means of the warp tunnels, mentioned earlier. I thought it was a great way to transition between planets, rather than just a simple point-to-point transportation. Some gates will feature security locks where you'll need to obtain a certain rank before you can travel to these areas, emphasizing the importance of accumulating points as you play.

    Advancing the storyline will get you to come across some special events and missions that will mix things up. You'll find yourself attached to a power plant, fending off enemy threats, and even stopping a giant mothership from destroying an important structure. Typically, you're given enough time to perform these tasks and there's only one or two that you may have a bit of trouble on. Otherwise, they're not going to send you to a Game Over. There's also side-quests that you can take upon entering power plants on the various planets. These are great for amassing large amounts of points, and they're quite varied as well.

    Players will be presented with loading screens as they travel to other locations, and even these are kind of cool. Not only do they provide details on the planets/tunnels you're headed towards, but there's some text on the top screen that's very reminiscent of a computer booting up. Seeing such phrases as "PAL RELEASE CODE VERIFIED" and "WARNING! DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER" were quite amusing. And, more importantly, they never go on for longer than 10 seconds.

On a similar note, the presentation values in this game are very admirable. The graphics used for the 3D environments are presented with quality rendering along with a slight throwback to the retro days of old. The visuals of the warp tunnels, as well as the transmissions received from your robotic pal are also very good. As with other projects by Q-Games, X-Scape sports an excellent interface. The control panel is well laid out and, staying true to their style, info on battery level, volume and the current time are displayed, and that's something I still appreciate. The music in this game is brilliant: from the epic song used on the Main Menu, to the excellent credit roll track, you can tell a lot of love went into this. 

    The game should last you anywhere from about 6 to 10 hours in total. The final boss of the game is just spectacular and does not disappoint. Upon completion and re-entering your save file, the mission briefing on the Pause Menu will say "The Adventure Continues", signifying that the game isn't over quite yet. Completionists will find that there's quite a bit here that extends beyond the final battle. You can work towards achieving the highest-possible Rank X, completing all quests, unlocking all warp gates, and getting the enemy forces down to 0% on each planet. Funnily enough, heading into the warp gate for Tetamus II will require you to face the last boss again as if it never happened, with the exact same dialog script. Whether defeating him a second time with everything unlocked will garner even more fruits remains to be seen. But rest-assured that there's a sense of replay value even after the game is complete.

    Between the fantastic gameplay mechanics, great controls, and engaging game design, I have no major issues with this game whatsoever. Perhaps having multiple save profiles and even more content at the conclusion of the game would've been nice. Multiplayer would've been lots of fun too, but that might be pushing it. When you look at other games listed at the same price (such as Brain Age, Scrabble Classic and UNO), it's even harder to believe that Nintendo is offering this for only $8. As far as I'm concerned, it's not only the best 800-Point title available, but it's also in my list of Top 5 best DSiWare games I've played to date. From start to finish, X-Scape is thoroughly enjoyable and really difficult to put down. This is an amazing game and if you have a DSi, you absolutely must download this.

29/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 10/10 - Controls may take a few minutes to get used to but they work really well, full of great game design and variety, lots of impressive moments
Presentation 10/10 - Looks fantastic, even the special screen effects are well-done, music is really good, everything about it is just brilliant
Enjoyment 5/5 - Addicting to play through, really captivating, lots to do to keep yourself busy, never disappoints, you'll love this if you're a Starfox fan
Extra Content 4/5 - Replay value mostly appeals to completionists, could've had multiple save profiles or even multiplayer, good length, such a steal for $8

Equivalent to a score of 97% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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