Xeodrifter is a reminder of games that have had such a profound impact on the medium, that they continued to be experimented with today. It’s hard to believe that it has been 29 years since Nintendo ushered in Metroid, a game that not only brought forth a dark, action packed universe of alien bounty hunting but also introduced the term “Metroidvania.” Since then, many games have adopted Metroidvania gameplay mechanics, such as Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate and the most recently released Axiom Verge for the PlayStation 4. Shuffled in between video games of this genre come simpler titles like Xeodrifter, which may not have grand scope of other games, but it’s a little title that packs a big punch. Xeodrifter was just released on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita this past September 1st.
Xeodrifter comes from developer Renegade Kid of Austin, Texas. The previous works of the studio include Mutant Mudds for the PS3/Wii U, and last year’s solid-performing FPS Moon: Chronicles for the Nintendo 3Ds. The studio’s DNA involves a true sense of mystery and science-fiction, as well as very polished gameplay mechanics.
In Xeodrifter, a lone astronaut warps through the cosmos freely. Suddenly, a rogue asteroid strikes the ship and damages the core. Our hero lies stranded in a small solar system, with strange alien planets. To get home, our hero needs a warp core, which has been detected in the solar system. It is up to players to explore each world, defeat alien guardians, and find the warp core in order to get home.
Xeodrifter is a clear tip of the hat to the Metroid franchise. While it may not be as grand in scope and scale, it’s gameplay, presentation, and sequence of events make it a fun, thrilling experience. Players can travel to any planet they want but need to explore each level to gain new superpowers and access previously inaccessible areas. If players are thorough, they can discover secret areas, revealing additional weapon and health cells. The weapon cells go towards customizing the primary weapon our hero carries. That can be accessed by pushing the SELECT button, where players can see the map of their location, the allocation of power for their blaster, and activate their solar flare shot. When earned, it allows for a powerful charged shot that can obliterate shields and obstacles. Players can make it more powerful, fire a spread shot, increase the fire rate, or a combination of the aforementioned attributes.
Players gain new powers by finding the ancient alien Guardians. The Guardian rooms are identified on the map. Navigating to these rooms will take a combination of repeat gameplay, super powers, and correctly utilizing your blaster. The guardians play as thrilling boss fights, requiring skill and timing. The powers are varied and make the experience fun and interesting. The game will put up a solid challenge, but infinite retries, checkpoints, and the fact that you can save at your ship at anytime make the game enjoyable. In addition, the game readies you for a Guardian fight by giving you full health.
On the Vita, the game looks, sounds, and controls very responsively, the players do not use the touch-screen or rear sensing pad. Movement is assigned to the analog sticks. Powers and blasters are assigned to the directional pad and button. The explorer can lie prone and fire weapons as well, which is helpful when facing certain enemies. The visuals feel like something ripped out of the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the music follows suit on that claim as well. The game becomes an excellent time for casual and experienced gamers alike. Coupled with the gameplay, I found myself thinking that I was playing a game on a Gameboy at times. The gameplay and presentation combine to make a wonderfully nostalgic experience.
Xeodrifter has a solid foundation, but the game is also very short. While this makes Xeodrifter a suitable title for mobile platforms such as the PlayStation Vita, it does leave something to be desired. Xeodrifter can be finished in about 2-3 hours. For trophy hunters, the game does challenge players to complete the game in less than an hour and earn the “Speedrun” trophy. This would mean another playthrough, but that’s it. A longer overall length could have meant for more gameplay, enemies, and variety.
In addition, Xeodrifter can become rather repetitive, with the same enemies encountered and not a varied set of levels. While the game’s length prevents prolonged fatigue and unwillingness to play, there could have been room to see more diverse gameplay, such as a spaceship combat sequence or a navigation level. It would have been neat to see more boss fights as well. Ultimately, the short length and repetitive gameplay hold Xeodrifter back.
While the game may be short and become repetitive by its end, it is hard to not enjoy the polish, charm, and thrilling fun of Xeodrifter. From the presentation evoking the gaming culture of 1986 to the boss fights and gameplay, the game is sure to provide a solid, fun gaming experience for gamers of all skill levels. Whether you have played Metroid repeatedly or have never even heard of the game that started the genre, Xeodrifter is very well worth your time.