Inspired by the Alien films and countless other sci-fi suspense flicks, this game sent a group of unlucky scientists and soldiers into a series of bases, each one overrun by slime-spewing, flesh-eating aliens.
The game had a unique split-level screen (top, middle and bottom), allowing up to three players to explore the tainted base either as a team or independently.
After selecting from a lineup of characters that included duck-headed Dr Kwack, eyepatch-wearing Col. Schickn, antennae-sporting Mr Eeez and tough female Dr Udderbay (ahem!), the players were transported down to the infested area for a close encounter of the worst kind.
The bloodthirsty aliens came in several varieties: clinging snail-like runts, tall beasts that spit corrosive slime, green meanies with the ability to roll up into a ball, grabby tentacles, and sneak attack aliens that popped in to throw a rock or catch your character in a kind of shocking tractor beam.
Moving through corridors, into elevators, outside airlocks, and across the remains of hospitals and kitchens, the team swept the area free of aliens, trying to wipe everything out before the base was forced to self-destruct.
Along with its unique monitor, Xenophobe sported a highly unusual control system. The game’s three joysticks all had triggers for firing weapons (or for punching when the aliens knocked your weapon out of your hands), but the sticks also had left and right thumb buttons.
The functions for these two buttons changed throughout the game, always indicated by a Left Button and Right Button display for each character.
At one moment, a button might cause the player to jump or crouch – at another, it might throw a grenade that your character had picked up earlier in the game.
It was an unusual move, but one that allowed players to have total control over when to move elevators, pick up objects, shake free of clingy aliens or turn off the base’s self-destruct mechanism.
Riding the popularity of 1986’s Aliens film, Xenophobe attracted plenty of attention in arcades. The masses may have flocked to Double Dragon and the emerging wave of side-scrolling fighters, but those willing to give Xenophobe’s unique control system a try soon discovered one of the most unusual and unforgettable games of its era.