20
Aug
12

Xargon for Dos

Sorry this post is a little late, I’ve been sick over the last couple of days and this post is a bit longer than most.

The Xargon title screen

The Xargon title screen

Xargon was released by Epic Mega Games back in 1993. I first played the shareware version shortly after it came out on our 386sx, we had got it on a cover disk like many other games we played at the time. The game is very much like Jill of the Jungle but has improved graphics and more levels. It quickly became one of my favourite platform games as it has many interesting environments, situations, items and levels. The game is divided into 3 episodes with the first one being the shareware version, fortunately the game was made freeware by its authors in 2008. So I’ve since been able to complete the entire trilogy.

The main game menu

The main game menu

Like many other DOS games of the era the story is pretty simple. You play as Malvineous Havershim who is an archaeologist that becomes trapped in a strange world. You find out that there is an evil entity named Xargon that has many reactors around the land. An eagle (named Silver tongue) tells him he needs to destroy the reactors and Xargon himself. So yeah the story is not very impressive, but then again not many stories from games of that era were!

Underground

Underground

Like the last Jill of the Jungle, there is a map screen which you navigate to travel to levels, it’s also the only place you can save. Each level has its own unique environment, with a unique set of different puzzles and hazards for you to get past. Again like in Jill of the Jungle there are some items that will transform you into a bee, and a submersible that allows you to travel under water. The submersible is reasonably maneuverable but not so much it makes the game easy. There are a couple of levels in the first episode that are mostly underwater which I am quite fond of.

Killing a centipede

Killing a centipede

There are a number of different type of weapons in the game including rocks, fire balls, the standard laser and rapid fire lasers. Each one is different and useful in different levels. For instance some of the levels have rocks as the main weapon available, you need to master bouncing the rocks around to kill the enemies. If you really need a weapon (or other power ups for that matter) you can buy them with emeralds you can collect. You can also collect fruit to get extra health, if you collect enough and you don’t need the extra health it will save it for when you do which is nice.

Episode selection menu

Episode selection menu

The gameplay is not as action focused as many other platformers, but still requires you to have good platforming skills. You have unlimited lives so you don’t have to worry about dying too much, although when you do it is necessary to start the current level from the beginning. This could be annoying if you die in one particular place often, but I didn’t really have this problem too often. I found if you take your time, plan ahead, and explore for extra emeralds you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through the levels. The game does offer a slowed down mode called granny mode if you really have trouble, but I wouldn’t recommend this as I think it slows the gameplay down too much.

A level from episode 2

A level from episode 2

Graphics are nice and colourful with many different environments and enemies.  Many sprites are reused as are some of the graphics for the levels, but given the size of the game and that they only appear in environments you’d expect, it’s kind of understandable. The game only supports VGA which for the time is to be expected.

A level from episode 3

A level from episode 3

Sound can come from a number of devices namely the PC speaker, Sound Blaster or Adlib (for music only). I believe a few of the more obscure devices are also supported but I do not know anything about what they sound like. On the PC speaker the sound is good for what the speaker can do, but if you have the option Sound Blaster digitized sound is far superior. Music is the same for the Adlib and Sound Blaster for obvious reasons and is quite good, but can be a bit loud and distracting at times. You should set your mixer settings appropriately before you play this game!

A castle like level from episode 3

A castle like level from episode 3

Xargon plays well on most older PC’s but you wouldn’t want anything less than a 386 20Mhz, and ideally you’d want to play on a 30-40Mhz system to avoid slow down in some areas. It works well on Dosbox as long as you give it enough cycles and the sound is reasonably good.

In my book Xargon has stood the test of time, and still remains a good playable platformer. It may take a while for people to get used to the slower pace and some of the different weapons (such as the rock), some of which add to the experience within the level they exist in. It’s a different kind of platformer.

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