< Intensity XS Retrospective

Wonderland Game
THE MIDNIGHT POST * February 2009
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Classic Game Spotlight:
Intensity XS

Wait a minute? Can we pick one of our own games for a retro spotlight? Can a game released in 2001 be considered “retro”?

Truth is, we hadn’t as much as glanced at Intensity XS in a number of years. Usually, after spending months or years on the development of a given game, we are so thoroughly fed up with it, that it is hard to come back and play it for enjoyment. However, once work on Mysteries of Fire Island was completed, we sorted through old files and re-installed the Intensity XS games on our work machines. And - surprise - it was still a lot of fun!

So here is our very own “retrospective” on our very own Intensity XS!

The Game

Intensity XS and its sequel Intensity XS ReCharge were just two of the many finished and unfinished games that we developed out of our love for the quintessential 1980s arcade blasters - Defender, Scramble, Robotron, etc. Its basic premise was simply - combine the “attack wave” pattern of a game like Galaga with the graphical style and power-up system of our personal favourite - R-Type. There is a bit of a back story - the evil Mon Saanti empire has used gene manipulation to transform formerly peaceful species into hostile invaders - but, really, the game is about using your reflexes to overcome wave after wave of enemy squadrons.

We put together a short video to give you a taste of the game, in case you never played the demo versions.


One of the first decisions in development was to incorporate mouse control into the game. In fact, Intensity XS was one of the very first games to use the mouse in a scrolling two-dimensional blaster. We felt it was essential to the gameplay, which required a lot of careful manoeuvring and fast dodging, but several reviewers lambasted our choice, citing that it was just not a “natural” choice for this type of game. We do, however, feel vindicated in our choice - nowadays hardly any PC blaster is released without this type of control.

For the visuals, we employed the 3d ray-tracing program “POV Ray” to construct and render the ship graphics in 3d, then transfer the output to a traditional 2d “sprite” system. Music was provided by the electronica band “ReFraction”, chopped into processor-friendly little chunks, and then streamed into the audio buffer during the game. Finally, since this was our first title specifically developed with a web-based distribution system in mind, we also incorporated several special demo features, such as a “trailer” that showed clips from the full game (a technique that is now commonplace).

Eight Years Later

It is interesting to look at your own game after a long period of time. We are still very proud of some of the games’ aspects. Most of all, both games are still a lot of fun and showcase a lot of “neat” ideas in both its enemy and weapon designs. On the other hand, the graphics do look quite dated after all this time. Also, the first Intensity XS feels a little too long, showing that “more” is not always “better”. The sequel, ReCharge, is the shorter game or the two (with six compared to eight levels), but feels tighter and more interesting as a result.

Finally, both games are still very, very hard! Even on the “Standard” setting, it will take a lot of practice and some very steady hands to overcome the challenges in these games - to say nothing of the “Hard” setting. (Yes, there is an “Easy” setting as well).

The Future

Shortly after the release of Wonderland, we received a steady flow of e-mails asking us when we’d return to the world of Intensity XS for a third game. We did consider a third title for some time and thought about moving the game graphics to a true 3d system (similar to R-Type Final or Gradius V). Whether or not that will ever happen, we don’t know. With both our collective feet firmly planted in the world of Wonderland, it doesn’t seem likely in the near (or not so near) future. The Galaxy might just remain safe from the Mon Saanti invaders for a little while longer.

You can download the demo versions of the two games here.

If you’d like to order the games, the best deal is to buy our Games Collection CD, which includes both Intensity XS games, as well as three “classic” Wonderland games, Frazzled, and Colony.

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