Developer(s) – Renegade Kid
Publisher(s) – Renegade Kid, Gambitious Digital & Entertainment
Director(s) – Jools Watsham
Programmer – Matthew Gambrell
PEGI – 7
Developed as a love letter to the Metroid series, Xeodrifter is a Metroidvania game with an emphasis on exploration and intense combat, as well as including a small RPG element in the facility to upgrade weapons and learn new abilities as the game progresses. For the small amount of time it takes to complete this game, I was impressed with how it plays out but underwhelmed by just how fleeting an experience it is, with the game ultimately leaving wanting a lot more than what was on offer.
Graphics – 7/10
Making use of intricately detailed 8-BIT environments and a dark and gritty atmosphere, the game is set on four different planets with their own unique looks and surroundings, and does extremely well to perpetuate the feeling of isolation that is synonymous with games like this; Super Metroid and The Swapper to name but a few. The biggest gripe I have with it in terms of visual presentation is the lack of variety in boss designs, with the developers choosing to simply recycle the same character sprite, but coloring it differently, and giving it different abilities with each battle. But although there is a lack of variation in boss design, there certainly isn’t in general enemy design, as there is a wide range of different creatures to fight throughout the course of the game, keeping things fresh for the most part.
Gameplay – 8/10
More impressive than the visuals, however, is how the game plays out. The combat involved in the game is just as intense and enjoyable as in the original Metroid; if not, more so. There is a wide range of weapons for players to utilize, as well a satisfyingly strong puzzle element to the game, with players having to use different abilities in order to progress through different areas, giving scope for players to revisit previously explored planets in order to uncover secrets other inaccessible without the aid of specific abilities, thus expanding what longevity there is to be had. Whilst the bosses are largely repetitious, they are also legitimately challenging; especially the final boss.
Controls – 10/10
Though this gameplay formula had been popularised and developed upon for over thirty years until this game was released, the developers did well to not only program the game’s control scheme properly, but also to build upon the formula, implementing unique features such as shifting from the foreground to the background, and vehicular exploration and combat, as well as traveling and fighting on foot. Unlike in a lot of many 2D side scrollers to have been released in the past such as Mega Man and Castlevania, the controls are also adequately responsive and don’t perpetuate any unnecessary frustrations in-game.
Lifespan – 1/10
The worst thing about this game, unfortunately, is how short a time it lasts, with it lasting an average of merely 2 hours. It may have been impressive back in 1986 when Metroid first came out, but against most other Metroidvania games released since, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Dust: An Elysian Tail, there’s no way it would possibly be able to compare in a positive sense. Personally, I think that even the aforementioned games could have done with lasting a little longer than they ended up doing, making a 2-hour Metroidvania seem especially unacceptable.
Storyline – 6/10
The game’s story can best be described as Metroid meets Pikmin. It follows an astronaut whose ship is damaged by an asteroid and crash-lands on an uncharted world, and he must find each of the missing pieces to repair it. It’s very simple in scope, and it features next to nothing in the way of the usual tropes of a modern in-game narrative, but the majority of games released in the time that this game is reminiscent of didn’t either, and so I don’t think it should lose out on too many points as a result. Personally, I would much rather have a game that includes standout gameplay over a standout storyline.
Originality – 7/10
Though this game was clearly inspired by many classics of the genre, most notably the Metroid series of course, in terms of gameplay, it offers something fairly different from what other Metroidvania games do, and I believe there is indeed potential to make a franchise out of this title, and potential to build upon what is offered within it in a possible sequel. Though it may stand out as one of the shortest games of its kind ever developed, it stands out somewhat for the wrong reasons as a result.
Overall, Xeodrifter is an intensely enjoyable, yet criminally short game. I think that with a much larger in-game world to explore and even more to do, a sequel could be considered a classic; but if the developers plan to leave this series as it is, then they will have provided nowhere near enough of an experience to warrant any more than one playthrough.