I assume thats 'Zaibots' and not 'Exiebots'...

Source // Retro Game of the Day

Upon first seeing Xybots in the 1001 list, I was intrigued. I had never seen it in any form before, and it looked both engaging and off-putting. That's a busy screen. Does that mean there's a lot of depth to dive into or a lot of complexity to have to overcome?

There's only one way to find out.


Unfortunately, in this case, the only way to find out is by watching a video by someone who knows what they're doing.

Xybots has you and, ideally, a friend take on evil robots, eliminating them all before they destroy mankind. It sounds a little samey, certainly these days, but what the 1980s weren't prepared for was a third person maze shooter with a twisting controller.

They probably were, actually. But it makes sense when paired with the game. The concept is simple enough - navigate mazes, destroy enemy robots, make it to the end of the stage to reach a lift and descend into the next stage. Looking at some of the maps, these stages are absolutely crawling with enemies, and you're essentially on a time limit with constantly depleting energy reserves, meaning you need to progress through the stages on the hunt for energy canisters scattered about or dropped by enemies.

It rewards not only the quick decision makers but also those with quick reactions. A slow and careful approach will probably not get you too far, though by the same token running and gunning like a maniac won't either.

Fun Times

It seems to play like a much faster version of Dungeon Master, where this time you don't get damaged by running into walls as you can get a better sense of where you are in space. Seeing it all in third person allows each character to navigate within a square on a grid, rather than stand right in the middle of it, and that allows players to strafe in order to hide behind obstacles for defense or pick off enemies from afar, for example.

Unlike Dungeon Master, you only have to look out for number one and there are no puzzles to navigate your way through or mysteries to solve. It's just you, a gun, and a lot of targets. Some of your opponents are shielded in certain ways, meaning you'll have to time your shots or approach from the right direction. Others don't appear on the map at all, ensuring you bump into them and their heavy weaponry.

Collecting coins throughout the maze will allow you to stop off at a shop between stages, allowing you to upgrade your abilities - faster speed, better armour, better weapon power and so on. I don't know how essential these upgrades are to the game, having not played it, but there are a fair few things to pick from in those shops.

Final Word

Xybots looks really enjoyable, and I'd imagine with two players it's even more so (unless you care about personal high scores and fight for every single point available). I do wish I could play it to see if it's as difficult as I read, but until that happens I'll just have to sit tight and keep an eye open for it.

Fun Facts

There was an unreleased NES port of Xybots that looks even more cramped and even more 'must play' than the arcade original. Maybe I should try that sometime.

Xybots, developed by Atari Games, first released in 1987.
Version watched: Arcade, 1987 (MamePlayer)