No, I’m not choking on a pretzel, nor am I having a stroke. This is how the French developers ERE Informatique announced their transformation into an entity known as Exxos.
“It is Him! Him who has been in our offices for months… He who comes from outside the Universe. He that we reveal today to the world, because the hour has come. I name Exxos. I ask you to say after me some magic sentences which point out his country to him: ATA ATA hoglo hulu, ATA ATA hoglo hulu…”
Bear in mind that this was the 1980′s. Videogaming was already in it’s golden age of being completely hatstand, and what these guys were doing seemed really weird.
Exxos existed only for one short year, and in that brief lifetime, they released three games. All three of which featured some of the most colourful, rich, original worlds I’ve ever encountered in gaming. Let’s take a look at them.
Captain Blood (1988)
You play the role of Bob Morlock. A video game programmer who somehow gets sucked inside his own game. As he materialises inside the game’s spaceship an emergency forces him to activate the ship’s hyperspace drive, which malfunctions and clones him 30 times. The clones, which were each made from a portion of Morlock’s vital fluids, escape and go into hiding across the far reaches of the galaxy.
Over the course of the next 800 years, Morlock tracks down and disintegrates 25 of the 30 clones and reabsorbs his stolen vital fluids. We join him as he searches the galaxy for the five remaining clones. Time is running out for Morlock. He is becoming ill and needs to find the last of the clones before he becomes too weak to fly the ship.
Still with me?
To find them, Morlock has to do a bit of galactic detective work. You begin the game in orbit around an inhabited planet. The game will place you in one of four starting locations, although the coordinates are always randomly generated so no two games have the same map.
Communication with the aliens is conducted via a symbolic language interface called UPCOM. The challenge of the game lies in learning how to successfully communicate with the various alien species you will encounter. And they are truly alien. Some will even appear to speak gibberish until you figure out how their minds work. Once you understand them, you can begin to press them for the coordinates of other inhabited systems.
As you communicate, you will learn about the the galaxy’s civilisations and history, and the rivalries between some of the more warlike races. If you’re successful, you will also feel the pleasure of disintegrating those thieving bastard clones.
Although Captain Blood was released on everything with a processor back in 1988, I’ve included a screenshot from the Atari ST version here. The ST version is the only one to feature the full alien language sounds, which really complete the ambience of this wonderful, truly original game.
I still haven’t completed the damn thing. It’s REALLY hard.
Purple Saturn Day (1988)
In this action game, SPACE-athletes from across the universe meet every four SPACE-years to compete against each other in feats of mental and physical ability. For the player, this translates to four minigames:
- Pilot a spaceship as far into the future as possible by clicking on sparkly things.
- Race through the rings of Saturn without smashing your ship to pieces.
- A SPACE-football type thing, where you have to shoot an orb and then collect the pieces to score points.
- A brain melting electronic circuit puzzle.
Graphically, it follows the same design style as Captain Blood. Everything has a kind of organic machine feel to it. It could easily be an event taking place in the Captain Blood universe.
It’s a fairly small, short game, but one of those that’s easy to pick up and difficult to master. I’ve included a screenshot from the ZX Spectrum version, as not even the humble Speccy could escape the Exxos weirdness.
KULT: The Temple of the Flying Saucers (1989)
This third and final game from Exxos was also known as “Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess” on DOS. With a name like that, you know it’s going to be batshit loco.
The plot to KULT is simple. You play the part of Raven, a Psionic Mutant working for the Tuner Netwerk [sic]. Raven’s friend is captured by the Protozorqs (worshippers of the monster/god Zorq) and taken to their temple. Promising to save her, Raven also gets himself captured by the Protozorqs and finds himself imprisoned in the temple, where he has to complete five tasks to collect five Vort skulls and become a Messenger Of The New Solution.
In essence, KULT is a point-and-click puzzle game with a very Giger-esque theme. The initial gameplay is focussed around a central hub called The Master’s Orbit. Leading off from this hub are doors to the five challenges. At the start of the game, you are given an object that is vital for completing a specific challenge. Once that challenge is complete, you can exchange the acquired Vort skull for a new object.
When all the challenges have been completed, Raven gains access to the Protozorqs’ inner sanctum where he has a chance to find and rescue his friend.
While KULT seems rather linear on the surface, shortcuts can be taken, and the game certainly rewards you for being inventive. Skipping puzzles would be a shame though, as it would mean missing out on a lot of the game’s rich content and atmosphere.
Like Captain Blood, KULT feels truly alien. And is just as much fun to play as it is to simply experience. The screenshot above is from the Amiga version, which I caned the absolute arse off of back when it was released.
To sum up. I miss Exxos. I miss the time when ideas like these weren’t laughed out of the board room. I miss the unbridled creativity of the era.
While I certainly appreciate games like Modern Warfare 3 just imagine how much more fun it would be if you were shooting at giant space-molluscs with a mind-ray while skimming the event horizon of a black hole.
Someone make that happen, please.