Xeodrifter (PS Vita) - ReviewChris Matulich , posted on 25 September 2015 / 3,592 Views
There’s nothing like a good Metroidvania. The combination of freedom of exploration, discovering secrets and collecting power ups, all on a 2D backdrop, quickly brings me back to my childhood; the times of yesteryear where nothing else mattered than maxing out my missiles and powerbombs while discovering every secret in Super Metroid. Keeping to its recent retro style, Renegade Kid has brought Xeodrifter to the PlayStation Vita, a Metroidvania in the truest sense of the word, and one which pays great homage to the genre’s roots.
Much like the original Metroid, the game that initiated a genre, Xeodrifter is very minimalistic in terms of story and direction. Taking the role of a nameless adventurer who has been marooned in an unexplored solar system consisting of four planets, the player must find a way to repair his warp drive in order to make his way back home. While it doesn’t take hours upon hours of cut scenes or a thousand page script to tell a story, it’s apparent Renegade Kid chose to focus more on gameplay than on creating a robust storyline. But for my entire first playthrough it felt as though I was making my way through Metroid for the very first time, and any desire for a proper, gripping narrative vanished once I set foot on the first planet. It’s a basic story with a very minimalist style, but Xeodrifter makes it work.
Xeodrifter begins with our adventurer landing on one of the four planets which he must explore for a means to escape his fate, with nothing but a space suit and his trusty blaster. The spacefarer’s equipment and life-support are very limited to begin with, but as you explore each planet through 2D platforming action, more abilities and upgrades become available. Where other games in the genre usually introduce a variety of weapons and other upgrades, Xeodrifter makes some alterations to this trope.
When major upgrades are gathered, which are dropped by the six very-similar-but-slightly-different bosses, your adventurer gets a new ability. These include turning into a submarine, running at super speeds, rocketing into the air, passing through walls, firing a mini-supernova, and - my personal favorite - phasing between the foreground and background of each area. The protagonist’s abilities are used in combination with each other, creating some unique platforming experiences.
You’ll need to run at high speeds over lava pits while phasing into the background to evade an obstacle and finally passing through the wall of what originally looked like a dead end. Other times you'll have to fly up a corridor, then phase into the background, before slamming into the ceiling, and phasing right back into the foreground to avoid an instant death. It makes traversing the four planets more exciting than simply running around, provides more of a challenge, and it makes discovering secrets more rewarding since many will require a combination of abilities to find.
Weaponry is also handled a bit differently. Instead of receiving new types of weapons from bosses or secret areas, you'll need to find and collect weapon tokens, which can be spent in five different categories: the size and power of each shot, the speed bullets move and how often the gun shoots, as well as the addition of a spread or wave pattern. This gives you more control over how the adventurer’s weaponry works, however it's a bit lacking.
There are no sub-weapons or more advanced alterations to the gun, such as a freeze ray or even some missiles, so it feels like there’s something missing. The combat, while satisfying, becomes rather simplistic. After beating the first boss, pretty much the entire game’s combat strategy remains the same, which is especially true for bosses, as they are the same creature over and over again with very slight changes. As much fun as I had running and gunning around each planet, the combat doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Xeodrifter’s retro style, much like Renegade Kid's own Mutant Mudds, looks like a mixture of 8-and-16-bit glory days, utilizing a bit of both to give the game a unique, throwback look. Each planet bears a strong resemblance to many different Metroid worlds, honoring the mother(brain) of the genre at every corridor. Renegade Kid has a great handle on how to impress with visuals that are 30 years old, and Xeodrifter may be their best yet. Going along with the retro visuals is an equally old school soundtrack which once again captures the essence of Metroid. It’s a chiptune filled score with a spacey theme, and each planet is given its own unique sound design that greatly enhances the atmosphere and manages to remain with you for quite some time.
If you’re a fan of Metroidvanias then Xeodrifter hits all of the right notes, even if it’s a bit simple and can be completed in less than an hour if you decide not to fully explore the game worlds. The nostalgia factor is strong and there were times when I felt like I was 5 years old again, exploring Brinstar on the NES and thinking Samus was the coolest 'guy' this side of Cooltown. And when it's free until the end of the month, how could you pass it up?
This review is based on a digital copy of Xeodrifter for the PSV