Developer: Renegade Kid
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 38 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: No
Have you ever heard the term Metroidvania? If you’ve been keeping with this site, I’d bet you have. It’s the term people have given new games that take a lot of inspiration from the classic Castlevania and Metroid games. Many of the games I’ve seen have taken elements from both of these classics. What you don’t see every day is a game that takes mostly from just one of them. In that case would it still be called a Metroidvania game? Or would it be called something else?
A new game that’s released on the PS Vita would fit under this nameless category of platforming games. Many of you probably already have this game, since it is part of this month’s Instant Game Collection for PlayStation Plus members. If you’re still reaching for answers, then let’s get straight to it. Here is my official review of Xeodrifter!
The plot of this game is very light, only appearing to give us a general feel for what’s going on. You play as an astronaut making a trip across the universe. However, when a meteor hits his ship and destroys the core for his Warp Drive, he is left stranded in the middle of unknown territory. His only choice is to explore the four planets of the system he is in to try to find parts and repair his warp engine.
As I said before, the story is very light. There is no dialogue to it. There are just a few scenes to show him getting struck by the meteor and his warp engine failing. It’s pretty easy to understand, but it’s not explained in detail.
Xeodrifter is a side-scrolling platformer with some light puzzle elements thrown into the mix. It plays very much like older platformers such as Metroid, hence the general consensus that it was inspired by the Metroid series. In the game, you’ll be traveling through each planet to look for new power-ups to reach new locations while fighting off enemies and taking on bosses.
The progression in the game is that you can visit any of the four planets, but can only go to certain areas right away. There are a lot of different obstacles that require specific power-ups to pass. You can’t go through water without the Submarine, and you can’t go past lava without the Super Speed power-up. So your task is then set on exploring where you can go to find bosses that give you power-ups that then open new areas up to you.
This function is a little mix of Mega Man and Metroid. A boss fight holds each Power-Up, so whenever you defeat a boss, you get a new skill, which can open up paths to the next boss for the next skill, and so on and so forth. Knowing this, there is a ton of back-tracking in the game, where you’re constantly going back to each planet to find the next area and next boss.
There are some things about this game that are unique and some that aren’t so unique. The uniqueness is the types of power-ups you can find. The submarine is simple enough to navigate through water, but the Phase Shifter is incredibly unique. In some areas, there are two different plans of explore-able areas. Tap the Triangle button and you’ll move to an area in the distant background where you can move around and explore to get past an area in the closer plane. Another is that you can upgrade your weapon with “Gun Points”, allowing your shots to be upgraded in several ways, like making shots stronger, faster, moving in various directions, etc.
The only thing I’ll say that’s a downer about the customization is the fact that it’s confusing. You have various types of bullets, but savor a small pixel-based picture, the game doesn’t do anything to tell you how it works. You just have to equip one type, fire off shots for a few moments, and then try another. It’s completely learning on your own. Despite the fact that the controls are explained so well, it’s surprising that this isn’t explained at all.
The part about the game that isn’t so unique are the boss fights. While each boss is a challenge and requiring you to remember patterns, the boss is the same boss every time you fight them. The only differences between the boss fights are that each new fight gives him a new ability and makes him a different color. For all intents and purposes, you’re fighting the same boss over and over again, even in the final battle and this makes these fights seem quite repetitive by the end of the game.
Difficulty is another aspect I wish to discuss. The pacing of this game is much faster than most platformers and there is a clear difficulty to it. You only get checkpoints in the planets when you enter or exit a boss room. This means that you need to make it all the way to the boss or you get to start the entire thing over again. It starts out to be a pretty difficult game, but gets much more manageable the more you play.
Length is another thing of note. Despite what previous sites have said about the 3DS and PC versions of this game, the claimed 5-6 hours of gameplay isn’t very accurate. With having to explore and figure things out, my first run through the game took around 3 hours to get to and defeat the final boss. Granted, I didn’t get every optional collectible item, but it’s hardly a 6 hour game given that there are no rewards for beating the final boss. This isn’t a bad time frame, but it’s not what others have claimed it to be.
To get it out of the way, this game is not compatible with the PlayStation TV. There aren’t any touch-only controls and I have spoken to the developers on this. But, right now, it’s not compatible with the PSTV, and there doesn’t seem to be much desire from their end to make it that way. There are touch controls in the game for pulling up the menu, but there are button alternatives for the same controls.
Moving around is done with the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick and the menu can be opened with the Start button or the touch screen. Square fires your weapon, X is used to jump, and Circle/Triangle are used for power-ups, mostly in combination with the D-Pad. The control scheme is very easy to learn and everything is explained to you when you unlock each new feature.
The visual presentation looks quite nice in the game. They take the 8-bit genre and really make it stand out with a colorful and crisp atmosphere. You don’t see any jagged edges on the models and everything about the visuals looks pretty much flawless. The developer did a great job in the design for the game.
The performance is good, but not without its little hiccups. Notably when you use the Speed Run power-up in certain areas, the frame-rate dips. It stays steady for most of the game, but there are clear drops in those areas, specifically when using that one power-up. It’s not a very big drop, but in those areas that require quick reflexes, it could throw you off.
Xeodrifter does a nice job of using the Metroid formula in its own way. Despite its fun pacing and challenging difficulty, the repetitive color-swap boss fights, frame drops, and a lack of explanation for the weapon customization makes this a decent platformer, but something that could have been much better.