Tuesday 4 December 2012

Exolon - Sinclair Spectrum & Commodore 64 - 1987

[Spectrum] Just before Game Over.  I don't have enough ammo left to break the force field.

Exolon is a flick screen run and gun game released in 1987.  It was originally released on the Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad CPC, with the feeble Amiga and ST offerings following on in 1989. The game was designed by Raffaele Cecco who produced some highly regarded shooters in the mid to late eighties.  The best versions of Exolon were on the Spectrum and Commodore 64.  The gameplay on both versions is the same but whereas the Spectrum has sharper graphics, the Commodore can boast superior sound.  The graphics on the Amstrad are colourful, though very blocky and it feels slightly sluggish so it didn't make the cut.  The 16-bit versions are completely forgettable.

[Commodore 64]  Better sound than the Spectrum but blockier graphics.

Exolon is a very simple game - basically you walk left to right shooting anything that moves and firing RPGs at anything that doesn't.  The game is set over 5 levels each made up of 25 zones (screens).  The fact that you start the game with 9 lives means it's not going to be a walkover and it's very easy lose several lives on one screen.

[Commodore 64] Entering a teleporter to get to the ammo boxes.

You start the game with 99 bullets and 9 grenades.  These can be replenished from the ammo boxes that are dotted over the landscape.  Enemies normally come in two forms - flying and static but both can lead to cheap deaths as you get near the edge of the screen.  Some of the screens are split into two levels with teleporters allowing access between the two.  On each level there is also a dressing unit where you can pick up an exoskeleton.  The exoskeleton doubles your blaster power and provides extra protection against some of the nasties, but your bravery bonus takes a hit.

[Spectrum] A reaction test game at the end of the first level.
At first glance Exolon seems like a simple game, and it is, but it is also pure mindless blasting and quite addictive once you get into it.  The good reviews it got on release are well deserved.

Spectrum gameplay


  1. I always like the Spectrum's vivid color palette, though often games run better on the C64

    1. Back in the eighties when I owned a Spectrum I used be quite jealous of some of the C64 games that came out. Now I have experienced a lot of games on both systems I'm glad I chose the Spectrum instead despite it's shortcomings.

  2. "The graphics on the Amstrad are colorful, though very blocky and it feels slightly sluggish so it didn't make the cut."

    You should give it a try (Amstrad version). It's the best version of the game. Of course, you need to take those rose-tinted glasses off first. Less attribute clash, more colorful graphics and please take a look at the sprite of our hero. The Amstrad sprite shows a better design and is actually fully animated (speccy and c64 versions only show animated legs, the rest of the body seems to be lifeless ;-)). Because of the better design of the sprite, it's the only 8bit version that shows the hero as a part of the games world. The c64/speccy sprite looks weird because it is the only not shaded object in the game. That ruins the overall art design and the immersion. The only advantage of the speccy is the higher resolution, that’s all and it’s not enough to catch up to the Amstrad version. The c64 version is the worst of the three. It has even more attribute clash than the other versions (but in different situations) and it shows fewer sprites on screen at the same time (go to zone 20 and count the red bubbles if you don’t believe it).

    1. Hi Anon. I did try Exolon on the Amstrad (and the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST). I have no argument against the graphics, but I did find the gameplay to be a bit sluggish which ultimately let it down. I stand by my opinion that the C64 and Spectrum have the best versions of the game.

    2. Sure, everyone has a right to their own opinion. But can you explain what you mean by sluggish? I really see no difference (regarding the gameplay) at all.

    3. Okay, to refresh my memory I re-played Exolon on the Spectrum and Amstrad. Again I found the jumping and directional controls not quite as sharp on the Amstrad - maybe sluggish was too harsh a word but I still stand by my comments. Also the body of the main sprite does move up and down slightly when walking. It's probably not as noticeable due to the higher resolution graphics on the Spectrum.