The dictionary defines a Xenophobe as a person prone to xenophobia (xenophobia being the fear of strangers or foreigners). In the case of this game, a Xenophobe is someone who fears aliens, and for good reason. Aliens have infested space stations across the galaxy and it's your job to wipe the out. Sound easy? Well just remember, these guys ain't E.T.!
Port of the 1987 arcade game by Bally Midway, Xenophobe was revolutionary at the time of its release as it supported three people simultaneously, each with a split screen display. Although the playfield for each player had to be shrunk down to accommodate this, it allowed each player to go his separate way without the fear of getting pushed off the edge of the screen. Xenophobe also featured highly detailed graphics and an assortment of items and tools to pick up and use.
The Atari 8-bit version features nine different space stations to explore, each with a different number of levels (from one to five). As you roam each station, you will undoubtedly come across several wacky looking aliens that must be destroyed (referred to as Xenos):
To aid you in your Xeno splattering exploits, there are a number of different weapons to be found scattered across the space stations:
There are a number of items you can pick up for points or health scattered through the space stations including a rope, skull, screwdriver, knife, burger, paper, and flask. Unfortunately some of the more useful items such as the jet pack, transporter card, door key, and the laser control key card have been removed from the 8-bit version of the game due to space and memory reasons.
To successfully clear a stage, you must either wipe out all the Xenos, or destroy the station by pressing up while in front of the self destruct panel (you'll need to find the paper with the code on it first). Not all stations have self destruct mechanisms and you will not receive any bonuses if you take the easy way out, so be careful. The stage can also end when the station becomes overrun by Xenos, so make sure you're actively hunting down those alien scum. Also note that Xenos like to move around, so just because you've cleared out one level doesn't mean more won't appear there. You may have to backtrack several times to make sure you've found them all.
One odd side effect of the graphics mode chosen for Xenophobe is that the aliens and items will take on the color of the background. So the Xenos that appear on the first level of a station will be bluish, while the Xenos that appear on the second level will be yellowish, the third level will have purplish Xenos, and so on. While this really doesn't take much away from the game, it's rather strange to see.
Although Xenophobe seems complete and playable, there are a few little quirks left in the game. The most noticeable quirk is that the word TEST that appears on some of the monitors in the game. It is unknown if they were supposed to say anything else, but it is doubtful that Atari would have left the word TEST on them. Another quirk is that the game gives you credit for picking up way more items that you actually do during the course of a level (leading to big bonus points). Other than these two minor little quibbles, the game seems pretty much complete.
Although the arcade game was only mildly popular, Xenophobe was ported over to all of Atari's systems including the 2600, 7800, ST, and Lynx. The only version of Xenophobe that did not get released was (as you may have guessed) for the Atari 8-bit. Although the 8-bit version was reviewed in Atari Explorer magazine, it was cancelled due to the phasing out of the Atari 8-bit line (Command and Midi Maze met similar fates). This was a real shame, as the Atari 8-bit version is an amazing piece of coding and almost on par with the Atari 7800 port, only lacking some color and animation. It's amazing that the programmers were able to fit so much into a 128K cart. The Atari 8-bit version even features the two player split screen option (take that Atari 2600 version!). With amazing arcade conversions like Xenophobe being produced, one has to wonder if the Atari 8-bit line might have been able to hang on a little longer if Atari had given it a chance.