Much good work has been put into (grr) XP8. The graphics, for instance, have been designed in the manner of Super Stardust's. Some sort of 3D rendering package (possibly called AmiRENDER! 3.0 or something - or something - our colleagues on Amiga Format could doubtless tell you more) has been employed to give them a metallic sheen, and to generate many frames of animation so that they can spin smoothly.
And spin they do, almost every baddy either rotating in its entirety or featuring at least one rotating component.
To complement them are attractive backgrounds (this time perhaps the work of proWORLDmaker+ 2.5). These begin as sort of cloudy electricity fields, and later turn into planet surfaces as you reach the alien homeworld in your spaceship. Little doors open to reveal gun turrets, colour cycling creates a spooky atmosphere, and everything casts shadows on whatever's below.
And in structure, XP8 is textbook vertically-scrolling shoot-'em-up: five baddies, and big motherships.
But playing XP8 is rather like hoovering the sitting room. Mostly it's just a case of watching the carpet roll by below, and little bits of dust disappearing up the nozzle. Occasionally there'll be a stubborn clump of fluff, which can either be scrubbed at until it, too, comes away, or just left and forgotten till next time. Meanwhile, 95% of one's mind is elsewhere, wondering for tea or how it is till Cardiac Arrest starts.
The trouble is, I just don't care what happens next. If I kill an alien, great. If I don't, well, so what? There'll be another one just like it along in a minute. Bullets fly towards me in an entirely predictable manner, characterless metallic spaceships float about the screen, some asteroids fly in from the side and kill me (not sending me back to the start of a stage or anything, just making me flash slightly and reducing my lives counter by one), and the background oozes past underneath.
At no time do I exclaim "Gosh! That's clever" or "Grr, he'll pay for that" or "The alien homeworld must be destroyed" or "What a welcome change of pace" or "Things are really hotting up now" or "I wasn't expecting that!" or "Ugh" or anything other than "Tch" and "Phrrrrw".
Just like it along in a minute
Beefier sound effects might have been an idea. Even through the powerful loud-speakers of my Sony television set, exploding aliens sound like waves breaking gently on the shore of a tropical island, and end-of-level bosses like a grandmother coughing in her sleep.
Music is restricted to the menu screens, where a funereal rendition of the theme from Rhubarb & Custard played at half-speed lures the prospective player towards coma.
Now, although many might consider the absence of music and advantage, a scrolling shoot-'em-up really does need some kind of backing track, both to fill up the gaps between waves of aliens and to change sinisterly to herald the approach of tricky bits.
The extra weapons, too, are terribly disappointing. You begin by firing laser rounds and by collecting power-ups, can upgrade these to slightly different coloured-laser rounds and, later, laser rounds which wobble about a bit.
Even ten years ago scrolling shoot-'em-ups offered bombs, homing missiles, mega-death-rays and super-power-ups that send rockets shooting off in all directions, all accompanied by enormous explosions. In XP8 you've just got your wobbly laser, along with little puffs of explosion that look like carnations and granny coughing a bit.
Sometimes the screen will flash brighter and shake about, which is good, but not really enough. Because the weapons are all so boring there's little incentive to collect power-ups, and they're just about the only reason to kill baddies. As a result, I frequently found myself idly weaving between formations of baddies, not bothering to shoot them at all.
XP8 would scarcely be £20 wasted. It is beautiful to look at and well-behaved and, if the temptation to fiddle with difficulty levels and passwords can be resisted, ought to breathe a few extra hours of life into any Amiga.
It is only really, however, a collection of interesting special effects encasting the most rudimentary of games, and entirely fails to inspire any of the raw excitement that a shoot-'em-up should. Initially it seemed great, but the more I played it the unhappier I became.
I speak for all of AMIGA POWER when I wish the curiously-named Weathermine Software luck. They have clearly ot the better of the Amiga, and have put everything they've got inot making XP8. What they need to do now is get on board someone who really knows what makes games tick.