An early DOS side scroller, Xargon can most easily be compared with another Epic Games platformer at the time: Jill of the Jungle.
Xargon was released as a trilogy, where the first episode was free to play and distribute via shareware. However, to continue the game and play further levels, the player would have to purchase and order episodes 2 and 3, which usually came together for anywhere between $20 and $30 dollars during the games release.
The three episodes are titled:
- Beyond Reality
- The Secret Chamber
- Xargon's Fury
Malvineous Havershim is an archaeologist studying ancient blue ruins deep within the jungle. During his exploration he accidentally released a gas into the air which proceeds to knock him out. In his dreams he is approached by an eagle who warns him of impending danger.
Malvineous soon wakes up and finds himself in a strange land. In addition to unearthly creatures and dense foliage, there are numerous robotic bases scattered throughout the country side housing vast quantities of mechanized drones and soldiers.
As he makes his way further and further around his strange new environment, he learns of an evil ruler known as Xargon, who currently has control of the land.
Malvineous is eventually able to make it to Xargon's layer, and find a way to return home at the end of episode 3.
Like other games such as the Commander Keen series, Xargon has an overworld map in which the player moves to different location which in turn teleport them to the beginning of a level.
Once the level is complete, they are returned to the world map and are able to continue by traveling past the location which they just visited. The map is set up in such a way so the player has different choices on how to pass by mountain or make it to the nearest robotic base (which served as major levels that connected two larger areas many times). For example, the player
could go through the mountain, in which case the level they would play would be set in a deep cave with falling borders. Or they could go around through the forest, where the level would be a dense jungle with different creatures and hazards. The name of the level is always displayed in the bottom area of the screen throughout the game.
Initially, the player has a weak laser shot that they can use infinitely against enemies, plus Malvineous is weak and can only be hit 5 times before being killed, at which point the level is restarted. The laser however, once fired, can be slightly skewed up or down. Throughout the levels emeralds are scattered which can be used to buy additional life upgrades as well as more powerful attacks, including a stronger laser attack, rocks (which are thrown in an arc and come in hand when attacking enemies below the ledge the player is on), and very strong fireballs that come in limited quantities.
The game keeps a running score of the player's progress. Points are awarded for finishing the level, killing monsters, as well as finding EPIC logo items, that when collected in order (E-P-I-C) grant the player large amounts of points.
Other items include fruit and hearts which replenish life during a level.
Like many video game protagonists, Malvineous cannot swim; hitting water will kill him instantly, as do spike pits or acid wells which are found in robot bases.
The game ran in 320x200 resolution in VGA which was common at the time. However, like games such as Commander Keen, the animations and background art were lacking. Usually there was just a simple blue sky with a few stationary clouds, and the player themselves had only a couple of frames of for any of his actions.
The game's episodes came on a 3.5 inch floppy disk, and required a Sound Blaster compatible sound card, and at least a 386 processor to run.