With a minimalistic approach, Renegade Kid’s Metroid-inspired Xeodrifter captures the soul of exploration with simple but charming gameplay.
Outside of the short opening “oh no, my spaceship hit an asteroid” cutscene, there is no story to speak of, no menus to work through, and no button schemes to toggle. Just like the little spaceman you control, the player is left to aimlessly wander without needless handholding, just like the original Metroid. With this said, blind exploration is the root of gameplay and is the most entertaining aspect of this short but sweet downloadable eShop game (also available on Steam – check out our live stream below).
Although it might seem a bit confusing and intimidating at first, the player can really only progress through one portion of the game at a time. Once progress can no longer be made, a short trip back to your injured spaceship can quickly place you on the surface of a new planet where new progress can be made. The bottom screen also constantly displays the progress made within each world so the player never really feels totally lost or disconnected. Just like Metroid, new areas can be reached once certain abilities are collected like the ability to travel through water to the Mutant Mudds-style jumping into the background feature. The quest only takes a few hours to complete, with some speedruners able to finish in under an hour, but the solid pacing always gives the player constant unlockables and hidden upgrades to collect, providing a welcomed sense of accomplishment.
As entertaining as Xeodrifter is, there are some blemishes that set back the overall experience. First, enemies, specifically the boss battles, repeat much too often. In fact, the player will fight the same boss several times throughout the campaign with little change in-between match ups. Enemies also are reminiscent of classic critters found the Metroid games, like wall huggers or enemies that fly from wall to wall, and are a bit too generic and sometimes can unfairly attack from off screen. Further, enemies do not drop any items or power-ups so there is no incentive to kill them. The player is better off avoiding enemies in most instances instead of fighting them. This throws off the overall balance and makes combat stutter. There are other instances where combat is a little silly, like when a winged flying creature somehow follows the player underwater, or when some enemies, like the massive stone block, unnecessarily take too many hits to kill.
The other complaint is from the checkpoint system. It is nice checkpoints are created right before a boss fight but there are no other checkpoints outside of running all the way back to the ship to save. For example, I basically cleared out an entire planet but died just a couple screens away from the ship, losing about twenty minutes of progress. The lack of save points can be frustrating especially considering this is on a mobile platform.
Xeodrifter looks like a really good NES or Gameboy Color game with fluid pixelated graphics and floaty controls that fit the quirky environments. Visually, the game is a treat to admire while the soundtrack and Atari-like sound effects add to the adorable presentation. I originally wanted to remap the jump and attack buttons but the control scheme quickly grew on me and works well with the abilities the player obtains throughout the adventure.
As an appetizer-sized Metroid clone, Xeodrifter is a short but charming experience even with repeated boss encounters, unnecessary combat, and inconsistent save points. The minimalistic presentation puts a strong emphasis on exploration and the lack of text boxes and complicated menus is a breath of fresh air in today’s gaming environment. It isn’t perfect but it is still fun and is one eShop title that should not be overlooked.
Not As Good As: the Metroid games
Also Check Out: Blaster Master Overdrive
Wait For It: Axiom Verge
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com