Xeodrifter Review (PS4)

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Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment

Main Review

Review Context: I am a fan of classic Metroid style games. When seeing the evolution which brought us the ‘metroidvania’ style of platformers, I was blown away with some of the fantastic titles. I haven’t played other games by Renegade Kid, but I’m never one to turn away a romp into classic platforming.
Date of Playthrough: November 23-25, 2015

Old school style games are on the rise! We see a birth of a new breed of spectacular pixelated games, with top titles being Shovel Knight and the Shantae series among others. We have waves upon waves of these games coming out that try to innovate old ideas or stand out on their own merits. Indie developers are booming, but there can come some problems with this craze. When do we put aside the nostalgia goggles and look at the bigger picture? Which games truly innovate, and which games are simply just mediocre to good, and where does Xeodrifter fit on that line?

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Now Xeodrifter is a weird little 2D ‘metroidvania’ game on the Playstation 4. You are an astronaut and your ship has crashed in a quadrant of unknown planets. Your warp crystal is gone and you need to fight your way through hordes of aliens to get it back. There really isn’t anything to the story element of this game. It is as simplistic as Metroid was in story, and Metroid was a great game for its time. Xeodrifter, more often than not, will feel just like Metroid. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was inspired by it as well. A core problem though is how closely it follows the original Metroid. Metroid has aged not as well as one would have hoped. Looking at future titles in the series, like Super Metroid or Metroid Fusion, we can see that the nostalgia goggles do not hold up so well. Therein lies the problem with Xeodrifter, it does nothing new. We just have a new Metroid for the modern age, and well to be honest that, just doesn’t sit well. Xeodrifter is a game that should be an evolution of it’s inspiration, but rather it is bogged down by that very inspiration. There are distinct graphical upgrades for certain, but the problem is it feels like a step down from Metroid.

The core mechanics are the same; you jump and shoot. There is no changing angles or anything to your shooting, as you can only shoot the four regular directions on a compass. The only unique element is that the type of ammunition shot can vary. You can make the shot larger, faster, go in weird directions, but there are limitations. The different directions may seem cool, like the multi-shot or the zig-zag, but lack use since speed and the span of the bullets are far more effective variations in use. You can upgrade each variation with numerous gun upgrade points found throughout the game, and they can be added into any of the different shots. This allows quite the diversity, but maxing out speed and span will make for an easier run. It is broken in that regard, not giving enough importance to other shots. You level up by defeating bosses and obtain a new ability at the same time. This is where Xeodrifter gets it’s personality. The only problem is that some of these upgrades may have a new coat of paint, but some are exact replicas of the ones from the Metroid series. With some unique elements, like the submarine upgrade for water combat, it does not feel entirely similar in that regard.

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The problem comes with the lack of personality in the creative process behind many elements. The lack of original power-ups was the first thing. The boss battles at first seem interesting, but you quickly discern a pattern by boss number two. It is the same creature with a different color and one more move added to it’s repertoire. This is the problem; a lot of enemies are re-skinned or just reused in some scenarios, and there aren’t many enemy types to begin with. The graphics, while distinct for each world, do nothing to grab you. Everything is effectively mediocre in that aspect; nothing is new, yet that doesn’t mean it is bad. There are some elements, such as a lack of checkpoints, which in harder more concise platforming sections during stages will make it aggravating to proceed. They do give checkpoints before and after bosses, so at least there are some checkpoints in each world.

There is one key element I wish was executed better in Xeodrifter; the classic backtracking. There are multiple paths in each world and they’re only accessible with new upgrades you obtain by defeating bosses. While in some games the extra facets of a level can make for some unique level design and world-building, in Xeodrifter, there is nothing of the sort. It makes backtracking boring and tedious in moments, especially with the longer segments and lack of checkpoints. It needed more flair to its design, or more innovative mechanics to spice up these bland finicky segments, but lacked that, making backtracking feel more like a chore for progression.

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Xeodrifter is a short game, and there really isn’t much to go in-depth about. It is serviceable, and certainly is a decent callback to a more classic Metroid-style, but lacks the ability to be more than that. It operates well, with little flaws to it’s mechanics and runs like a dream. That being said, this is one of the more mediocre titles in the pixelated renaissance for gaming. It lacks creativity to stand apart from its inspiration, and still has many key problems the classics struggled with. After you finish, and maybe grab those trophies, you probably won’t pick it up again. Xeodrifter is a fun, but forgettable callback to classic Metroid-style gaming, as it is held back by numerous flaws in both creativity and level design.

Similar Games Liked:
Metroid (NES)
Super Metroid (SNES)

Similar Games Disliked: (optional)
Metroid II: Return of Samus (Gameboy)

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