Exile II

By: Guest Reviewer

On: November 13th, 2007

Exile 2

[Guest review by haowan]

Having been dreading the release of this game for some time now, it was with a kind of desperate excitement that I fired up the Ovine fan-sequel. I’m a hardcore fan of the original game so I was worried that I was pre-disposed to hate the game and think that it was a complete abomination and that it urinates all over the original game. Sadly, the game is so bad that I feel that regardless of my bias, I would not enjoy this game. It’s not fit to bear the “”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exile_%28arcade_adventure%29">Exile" name.

It starts out well, with a nice intro to set the atmosphere. That’s about where the awesomness ends, though. First up is the menus, which, and I realise this is nit-picking, are annoying because they stop recognising your input while they do transitions even between individual menu items, so using them is a slow and frustrating process; the key definition screen refuses to accept bindings to already-bound keys which prevents easily swapping two keys around. The joypad support works.

Into the game, you’re dumped in the player’s craft just like the original game. The jetpack is extremely weak, so controlling your player in the first stages of the game at least is very frustrating. Firing is achieved by pressing and holding the fire key; the shots will be fired in whatever direction is being held and continue to do so in that direction until the fire key is released. You can only fire in 8 directions; this is the first of many gameplay-critical game design mechanics that has been removed from the original gameplay to make this game much much worse than its inspiration.

Exile 2

The graphics manage to be even worse than the weird-but-functional art in the original games. It’s impossible to tell what is a wall and what isn’t. All colours used are garish to the point of being an eyesore: bright, saturated reds, blues and greens are everywhere, and liberal use of cyan and magenta are abundant in most of the man-made structures. The rendered character graphics clash with the enemy graphics, which are pixel art, and much of the particle work is done in primary saturated colours. The particles themselves update at about 3 fps, so they look totally out of place. There are some nice wind and mist effects, although the wind suffers from the particle stutter.

On to sound. The bleepy synth noises seem totally out of place for a modern game, and all of them manage to be annoying. Especially the jetpack noise, which, as you’ll be hearing it on a constant loop for most of the game (a problem exacerbated by the weak jetpack causing much overshooting of where you want to go and having to jet all the way back), is mind-gratingly noisy and audibly looped. I had to turn the sound off after hearing a grenade explode. The intro sequence had nice music.

Gone is the sensible teleportation and health mechanic from the original game. In the original, if you get hurt, your player cries out in pain and your suit starts to heal you – your health regenerates over time. If it goes below a certain threshold, you teleport back to your last stored location. If you have no stored locations, you return to your ship. This is a useful game mechanic as it teaches you to think about what you are doing, place your teleport storage points in sensible locations, and if you “die”, you get to try again after a brief rest. It’s like a mobile continue point system. In Exile II, you have a health bar that does not recharge. You can still store locations and teleport (in this version, for some reason, a gigantic techno warp symbol appears on the screen and the store location key is unusable for a second or so making quick storage of the same location several times a chore), but if you “die”, you are returned to your ship and ALL of your stored locations are removed. So what was, in the old-school, a sensible design mechanic allowing players to think for themselves and plan ahead (and retry if they made a mistake) has been replaced in the new game with a punishment system the like of which I thought we’d left behind with 8-bit computer games. Yes, there are health pickups, which are few and far between and restore half of your health. These are completely unimportant in the face of how much time you lose if you are killed (and indeed how often you will be owing to the silly weak jetpack). It frankly astonishes me that such a sensible and useable system has been replaced with something so cruel and twisted.


Screenshots from the C64 version of the original Exile, via Arne’s Exile Page

The original game has a carrying system whereby you could pick things up and store smaller ones in your pockets; this has been replaced with a Thrust-style tractor beam that essentially places a stick between you and an object and binds the two of you like a dumb-bell. It makes taking anything anywhere a frustrating chore, particularly as the physics system is glitchy and objects are prone to getting stuck on corners. It’s nearly unplayable.

Saving your game is another step backward; where in the original Exile you could save anywhere, now you have a completely nonsensical “Save Bar” which fills up over time. You are only allowed to save when it’s full. Why would you do this? Why would anyone put this into a game? It’s so utterly stupid that for a while I thought it was a joke. It’s doubly strange because of the step backwards it represents; not only is it a meaningless concept and an annoying idea, but the original game has a better save game mechanic.

This new game also has pickups, for seemingly no real reason other than to populate the landscape with something to do. Some of these pickups give you points. Some, like the red bottle I found (which i was told after I’d picked it up was a bottle of Jack Daniels), reversed my controls or reduced the effectiveness of my jet pack to an even less playable level. It scares me that there are people out there that even think it’s still appropriate to put things like this into a game. I mean, really – reversed controls? Slow down? How is this fun? How does this make my time playing your game more fun?

Another step back: In the original, even in the BBC game, enemies can’t see you through walls. New game: Enemies can see you regardless of where you are. It just doesn’t make sense. In the Amiga game, meteors would fall from the sky at random. In this game, they only appear if you stay still too long – and then a huge flaming rock will appear directly above your head and land on you. Every 10 seconds or so. Right above the head. Never anywhere else. Always right above the head. I even had them appear indoors, although that’s a bug so I can forgive that.

Overall, playing this game, I felt that the creators had not realised the first thing about what made the original so great. Literally all of the gameplay mechanics that made it good have been replaced with something absolutely inferior.

It’s a crying shame.

  • Zmann

    Aw, this makes me want to play the ECS Amiga version of Exile. Unfortunately, getting the emulator up and running looks way too complicated, “kickstart” files and whatnot.

  • Cat

    Sadly, what we have here is a case of the ‘play it for 10 mins, write a review and think I’m alone in playing the original’ brigade.

    Here’s my background:

    I’ve played Exile on the BBC32, the Amiga (original ECS / AGA – and if you think this game is ‘annoying’, try getting anywhere with the AGA screen the size of a pea) and heck, even tracked down the only proper hack out there, the Gandalph one that stops the second check removing collision that caused most people to leave it alone).

    I’m not only a die hard fan, I’m one who was involved with earlier (unsuccessful) PC ports.

    Keys: They work 100%, even in menus. You have to remember that if you bind a key, that then works in the menu. i.e. If I bind ‘up’ from ‘up arrow’ to ‘w’, then ‘w’ instantly works in the menus, and ‘up arrow’ ceases to work. Its not rocket science. The controls ingame using WASD etc are perfect, and there’s no problems there. If the ‘reviewer’ failed to notice this, then I’m kind of stumped how he managed to actually work out how to change keys in the first place.

    Thrust: initially the thrust is not ‘weak’, the surface of the planet has ‘wind’. Wind (like the original Exile, and indeed, later on with sections that have windy tunnels, not something this reviewer got to, no doubt) is effected by the physics engine. If you enter into the tunnels, wind ceases to effect the player. Later on, there are upgrades to your jetpack that can be found that increase your thrust each time. By the end of the game, you’ll be wizzing around dragging heavy objects with no problems. Indeed, this is part of Exile II’s charm – sometimes you need to explore further in order to get a boost to your jet pack so you can successfully tow an object.

    Firing: Yes, you lose the ‘death piss’ aiming of the original. However, this is something of a familiarisation issue. At first, I was constantly hammering my UIOJKLNM. keys to try and aim my fire. Then you get used to it. The mechanics are extremely simple, and allow strafing. Fly one direction, tap another to aim the fire direction, hold fire, then fly around with your gun firing in the direction you’ve set it at. In the end, it works out as more ergonomic than constantly trying to re-aim the gun on the fly.

    Graphics: Um, not sure what graphic card issue you’re having here. All walls are clear to see, and there’s no problem discerning what is a background and a play object – there’s no garishness, just textured walls with structures and objects clear against them. In fact, I’m totally confused by this ‘problem’. Are you playing with an EGA card in the spirit of old games? On my ATI 1600, I’ve no problem at all discerning exactly what is what.

    Teleporting & health: Yes, the mechanics of the original have changed. You have five slots you can use to set ‘waypoints’ with an over-all ‘save portal’. Yes, if you die, you return to your save portal and lose your temporary save points. This took some time for me to get used to. However, if you play further than the surface / ten minutes play, you’ll discover more ‘master save’ points. So, the mechanics are now changed slightly – unlike the original, where if you died too many times right next to Triax’s lair you got returned to your ship (and boy, was that a bugger) instead, Exile II has several (read many) master save points that you can ‘bind’ to, and get returned to if you die. Sorry to say it, but the review smacks of someone who hasn’t even discovered the first save point other than the first ship. Kinda like reviewing a game on the demo.

    Oh. Health pick ups don’t ‘only restore half health’: they restore full health, and increase your max health by an amount. Meaning that as you go on, your ability to take damage increases. Guess you need to play a while and pick up more than one to get this point.

    Inventory: Yes, you’ve lost the inventory system. However, you can now grapple items and carry them that way – the original had you storing grenades only to lose them when you were damaged too much (and how irksome was that!?! >.<) and you could never really carry puzzle items anyhow (storing the jar? methinks not). The new system allows you to teleport with items up to a certain size - which means you can easily transport some items, and others you have to fly with. Just remember that items only interact with each other when you're not grappling them. Physics: Sorry, but here's where I have to laugh a bit. It works flawlessly. Yes, objects can get 'stuck' on corners. But only if you yourself get them stuck on them! The principles of momentum and mass are perfect - so if you try and swing something without momentum of your own, you won't get far. Likewise, if you go sailing across the land and get your towed object hooked on something... yes, you'll stop. The review is based on bad flying. Ho-hum. Pickups: Sad to say, like the majority of the review, this is based on perhaps playing for ten minutes, and experiencing the first 5% of the game. The early landscape does have a lot of pickups, both bad and good. They have no lasting effect, and are there to teach you about their nature. Later on, you'll discover puzzles and situations where you might need some of them, or learn to avoid them, or even use the 'negative' effects to your benefit. Enemies: Not sure where this comes from. Enemies seeing you through walls? Um, no. Turrets react exactly the same as in the original; birds do as well. Imps as well. In fact, I can't think of anywhere where enemies are able to see you 'through walls'. Anyhow. This review is rather like watching Xbox players rave about BioShock. Sure, they might think they know anything about FPS, but they don't. This review isn't done by anyone I recognise as having played the original when it first came out. Oh, and I got to test the first Exile, and hold the UK certificate for completing it second. My friend Dave holds the first one. I suggest you download a copy of this free game yourself, clear your preconceptions and have a go. Then have another go, and really get into it. No, its not a pure Exile remake, but it is damn good fun once you get into it and used to its quirks - much like the first Exile, that most didn't even get past the first blast door.

  • Jonathan

    Poo. I got all excited when I saw the start of this entry. Are there any worthwhile remakes of Exile?

  • Derek

    Wow! Well, thanks for your counter-review, Cat. It’s what the comments are for.

  • raigan

    I think one point that Cat misunderstood was concerning the menus/keys issue: my understanding was that the reviewer was complaining that the game would ignore input while the menus are transitioning/animating, so that (for instance) rather than tapping down twice quickly and hitting enter, you’d have to wait between each keypress until the animation was finished.

  • Gravious

    lol, except Haowan is one of the biggest exile fans i’ve ever spoken to..

    I think the point here Cat is that as a game that holds the “Exile” name, even as an unofficial sequel, it shouldnt hate and want to change so much of what made the original.. original.

    Its like remaking System Shock 2 into a RPS because you liked the idea but thought it missed the boat.

  • Cat

    Well, its not an Exile re-make. Its Exile II – something in the spirit of the original.

    For a free game, I had 9+ hrs of good entertainment, more than I got from spending £30-45 on some modern titles.

    My advice is to ignore this review, and try it yourself. Just remember – like the original, this is free-form gameplay, meaning you have to explore, experiment and think a little to get somewhere.

    That’s the real charm – no silver spoon in your behind, you’re given a world, with a mission, and well… you have to work out how to do it all!

    Personal score is 8.5/10, only because I know that there’s goodies like Mr Robot, Eets and Jets n Guns Gold out there.

    Er.. wait. They’re not free, are they?! ;)

  • raigan

    I have to definitely agree with the complaint about the menu transitions.. REALLLLY annoying. No idea why you’d set it up like this either.

  • Gravious

    no, but cave story is, and thats certainly more worthy :P :) or the recent Wizball remake, which is AWESOME even if its not 100% the same as the spectrum version.

  • Skyleak

    There was a part in the “first 10 min” where when you flew over the A,B,C,D,E,F etc tower on the surface there was was a security bot on left side of the tower that would follow your movement with the door shut.

  • Gravious

    I guess it is free though :-/

  • Cat


    Just play the game, and try to get past the 5% the reviewer actually reviewed. I’m doubting any of you have actually played the game past the surface, or at most the first few keys. Try doing so, you’ll find its gold.

    Oh, and fyi – you might find that Wizball and this share a person on the dev team. Same genius. >.< I'm kinda done with whingers - come back and review the game when you've finished it, or at least done 50-70% of it. At the moment, I've an eye in the valley of the blind. Later on there's plenty more stuff that Exile had to keep you amused - windy tunnels being a personal favorite. If you don't, you'll miss out. *shrug* Oh, and I'm a person who [i]can[/i] work out how to run WinUAE and SS1 etc on their modern duel core laptop, and still enjoy them - and I still do. This has a spot on my HD, and will do for a long time, I think its great. 9+ hrs of fun for free? Well, its longer than BioShock lasted, to be sure (and that went even before the silly DRM banned me from more installs).

  • Gravious

    bioshock on my 360 didnt have DRM :P and anyone with the ability to understand and run winuea will recognise the wealth of prior genius in the original more than this.

    besides, how did you manage to play the game to that extent with such an ugly HUD?

    more constructivly, i should point out that while i’m a more advanced gamer than average, it didnt stop me getting stuck under the rubble of the statue within the first 5 mins, resulting in having to quit the game and starting again. classy.

  • Zmann

    Yay, I got WinUAE working. Wasn’t actually that hard, but took me a bit to figure out why my joystick wasn’t working.

    And, dang, this game is fun.

  • haowan

    Yep, play the game for yourselves. It’s the only way to be sure.

  • haowan

    @Cat: Thanks for your thoughts! Yes, I freely admit that I didn’t play for long. However, so much of the game is broken in my eyes that I didn’t need to play any further, knowing that I wouldn’t enjoy it. I don’t see why I should be forced to endure a game I clearly disagree with on nearly every level in order to write down my opinions on it; that would just have made this review longer and more inciteful (while simultaneously being more insightful, I suppose).

    To reply to some of your points, though: I found the initial thrust to be so weak that it took me easily 4 or 5 seconds to recover from an overshoot. I’m not talking about the wind at all – it’s pretty clear when the wind affects the player.

    Aiming is impossible now; since you can only shoot in 8 directions, hitting things that are moving fairly randomly like the birds is very difficult. It took me a full minute to waste the first bird. The initial gun has pixel-thin bullets that seem to mostly pass through the thing.

    With the graphics, maybe it was clear to you which was a wall and which wasn’t, that’s fair enough. It wasn’t for me. And the rendered graphics do clash horribly imo. I do harbour a perhaps-irrational hatred for the colour cyan, so maybe that’s what set me off.

    The teleportation and health system is the main thing that annoys me I think. What the original had was a really sensible, original, interesting mechanic, and this has been replaced with a mixture of design decisions that I consider to be archaic in comparison. This game removes the innovations from the original and replaces them with design ideas that the original superceded, and this is something that can bee observed in many places even in the opening moments of Exile II.

    Agreed on the inventory from the original – it wasn’t ideal at all, and in a similar hardcore suck-it-and-see attitude to this game had things like keeping grenades in your posckets leading to very unfortunate grenade-dropping incidents. However, I can’t help but feel that it was easier to implement a tractor beam than a holding system. This is just one more thing that removes me somewhat from the world – why can’t my guy pick anything up? He feels more like a space ship than a little dude.

    Thanks for the clarification of health pickups.

    The physics is fine, of course, apart from the glitchy hooking on corners. The tractor beam is ok (although I did experience a problem with my joypad button not being debounced, so the beam just switched on and off every other frame), and I’m sure it’s a lot of fun later when the jet pack is upgraded. At the start, though it’s just frustrating.

    BTW, It was Galahad who cracked the ECS Exile.

    I think overall what I find disappointing about this game is that where the original felt like a solid, coherent world, this feels much more unreal. Things that kept me as part of the world have been removed, and things (mostly annoying) that remove me from the world have been added. That is why I say it is not fit to bear the Exile name. People may like it or loathe it as a game, and that’s fine of course. But I think what made the original great has been totally overlooked with this game.

    As I said on the forum, I respect the fact that these guys spent so long and actually got an Exile-like game out the door, something which nobody but the original creators has managed to do despite the many projects that started. I’m just sorry that I disagree so fundamentally with their approach to game design and aesthetics.

  • Cas

    there’s some really good critique in that review and it’s telling that haowan didn’t want to play more than 5% of it. That’s the crucial part of the game. If you can get someone hooked in the first 5% you’ve got a great chance of the rest of your 95% efforts being appreciated by the player.

    Turn them off by big things or death by a thousand cuts and you waste all that effort.

    Clearly a few things are haowan’s personal tastes but there are some issues which sound suspiciously bang-on, like the saving mechanism, the meteorites, the menu responsiveness and a few other gripes. The fact is – if he’s got these impressions by playing the first 5% of teh game – how many other people will also get the same impression? There’s no smoke without a fire.

    Cas :)

  • BenH

    What about smoke machines?


  • Simon

    How do I select anything on the menu after the intro? The cursor keys work, but no other key does. I have a laptop, windows xp, most recent drivers, running as limited user.

    Seriously, what the hell are the controls???

  • Advenith

    I haven’t played the original, but it seems like this is worth a shot. I’ll definitely play past the first 5%… It’s a lesson I learned from La-Mulana, as I hated the first bit of that.

  • moogalator

    I tried to play it, I got as far as getting the B (or was it C) card – from the underground levels. But for me the core mechanic of the game (moving about and shooting) was too much of a chore. Top points for effort though, and try not to be disheartened by peoples comments, but take them on board for any future projects.

    I found the thrust is a bit too weak to start off with. Turning it up a couple of notches would have made navigating about a lot more fun i think. I appreciate you say it can be upgraded, but you dont want to start the game crippled, as it can be off putting. (metroid prime is an interesting example – where you begin with lots of weapons to show all the fun stuff you can do, then have them taken away now the game has your interest)

    The bullets are tiny and aiming can be tricky – not a problem by itself, but because the game is now hi-res (compared to the originals low-res) the tiny bullets are even smaller in comparison to the game world. The direction lock helps with this issue, but it still feels a bit clunky to me personally. Maybe having enemies that can be killed with fewer shots at the beginning of the game could help with this (to train you up in using the gun).

    You can get stuck and killed when shot by some of the gun turrets, because their fire rate is faster than your recovery rate – meaning you just get hit over and over again and die because you cant move out of the way.
    This could be fixed by slowing the enemy fire rate, or reducing the player stunned timing, or allowing the player to teleport whilst stunned.

    The art is a bit of a mixed bag, some of the art looks ripped from the original (parts of the external ship structures), some is pre-rendered 3d (main character), some is badly touched up photos (some of the outdoor plants). It would have been great if the style could have been more consistent. The main characters jetpack particle effect is especially weak/ugly, which is a shame seeing as you are going to be looking at it all the time.
    In terms of art style, find a screenshot of exile aga, and put it next to some shots of exile2, and you can see the difference in the overall consistency.

    It would have also been good to have clear forground/background differentiation with some of piping – as it is a similar green. A simple fix is to make the far stuff (non collideable) either a bit darker, or desaturated.

    Anyway – thats my 2p, take it or leave it. The great thing about making indie games is you can make whatever you like – and if you want to make a game for yourself, thats cool. But if your objective is that you want other people to play and enjoy it then i think its best not to take any criticism too personally and absorb it all as contructive criticism (example – a game I made recently got reviews on metacritic ranging from 50% to 85% – and although i didnt agree with all of them, you could see a trend of things people liked and disliked – which could then be worked into a patch or sequel).

    [apologies for any spelling mishaps]

  • Simon

    What so no one can answer my question? I can guess the controls don’t work because I have a laptop keyboard.

    It is so frustrating that someone goes to all that trouble to make a game that people can’t play because of silly bugs!

    What a shame! :(

  • haowan
  • Simon

    Thanks haowan :)

  • Cat

    >Delayed due to local net outage for 72 hours living in the middle of no-where< @haowan I'm aware of who cracked Exile properly (I've the file sitting here in my 'my documents', Exile_FINAL_ADF [cr Galahad][!].ZIP to be exact), its an old joke, based on a whole slew of LoTR piss taking- nvrmind as they say. Suffice to say, someone once got confused about the myth/legend reference to Arthurian legend and went "oooh, I get it, you love that hobbit stuff, right?". Ancient history. She was... well, I'm 30 now, ok, and probably the only one who cherishes the memory ;) I feel you've gone about testing this game in the wrong way. To clarify: I helped beta test this game, and saw (a tiny) part of its development. I also fired up WinUAE and played the ECS version as I was testing, to get an accurate comparison. I often suggested things that were in the original, and weren't in the tribute / extension. Specifically, weapon power-ups got a 'grrr' and lack of radiation suits. Some of my suggestions made it in; many more didn't, as the creators had a clear idea of the game that they were making. However, as I played them side-by-side, I came to understand quite clearly the obvious reality: Exile II wasn't pegged as a remake. It was never intended to be a remake. It never claimed that it was going to be a faithful conversion (I'd still love to see that though). It was always intended to be a 'relation' - and not in the SS2 / BS way. If you go into a shallow review, and state boldly: this is NOT EXACTLY LIKE EXILE SO I HATE IT, well, then... you'll never like it. Worse still, you'll fail to actually 'get' where the game itself is coming from, and constantly blind yourself to its particular charm and genius. Don't worry - I did this as well, I just had the opportunity to not make a public statement about it, but bug test and grow to love it. Just to say this - I initially had exactly the same relation to the game, as I loved Exile that much (and know how beyond its time it was, or rather, how bad the industry got). Go into it a bit more, and do the following (it helped me): play a bit of Exile II; fire up Exile ECS. Compare, contrast and then savour the differences. You'll appreciate the likenesses more as well. Graphics: cyan. Still not sure where this is coming from. I've an ATI card - apparently there have been issues with Nvidia ones. Try the Ovine forums, please - I found the sprites / backgrounds nicely done, and there were no garish colour issues for me. It might be a Nvidia thing (?) Physics traps - yes, the statue. Its the only 'scripted' event in Exile II. So if you get caught, just teleport back to the ship. Its only really there to demonstrate the engine for magazine reviews, or swank factor, I think - you certainly never get caught like that again. Menus - um, press 'return'. Default action is return, I'm pretty sure. The 'slow' effect is deliberate, and measured at about 1-2 seconds, as an Alien tribute. Glad someone picked that up barring me. Um, anyhow. If we're honest with ourselves, who played the original Exile and didn't go "WTF" for the first 30 mins (in fact, many people still can't get anywhere in the original due to it being just 'too out there' for them). If you can't play it due to it not being Exile - the port, then play in tandem. Or, trust me - play to getting say 4-6 keycards and play around with the environment (here's a tip - find a pet, feed the pet those things that were really annoying in the original for a surprise) then come back and moan. It more than grows on you :) (and no, Alex, I'm not going to assassinate your game production attempt, although I do have a serious piece of advice: don't synth voice the female char if you don't have one to hand, its kinda insulting to us >.<) p.s. I've played Exile on a laptop from the start, and not had any key issues - not sure where the problem there is either?

  • Cat

    >laptop keyboard.

    Is yours set to UK setup? Make sure it is, not US. I’ve had similar issues US>UK in the past, might be an issue (?)


    Initial review wasn’t unbiased, and I think was more of a total negative reaction to not getting a perfect Exile port.


    Any chance of a rebound fuck? ;)

  • Simon

    My keyboard is setup correctly.

  • Cat

    Even redefining all the keys and shoving two configs up Exile, the key still selects menus. That’s after deliberately remapping my keyboard to US then AUS and so on.

    My laptop:

    1.83 GHZ duel core
    2 gig ram
    ATI mob 1600
    and so on

    Its kinda old, but can still run BS at full (1440×900) res at full detail with no slow down. And yes, the tech muppets over there still whine that I can’t possibly do this without DX19 supra-wizz-wankiness. Which just shows how being able to edit config.sys and autoexec.bat files helps you in later life.


    1) Get a new return key
    2) Set language to something English based, and re-install.

    Trust me.

    works 100%. If it doesn’t on your system, you’re doing something horribly kinky that I can’t reproduce even trying to.

    Are you from Kazakhstan?

  • Cat

    Ok, forum doesn’t parse < RETURN > as a comment.

    So .< . RETURN .>. is missing there.

    But yes, it works 100%.

  • Simon

    Wow, being insulted and treated like an idiot is fun! Thanks guys, great community!