Indie Quickie: Xeodrifter

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Xeodrifter_1

What is it? A throwback to 8- and 16-bit Metroidvania classics.

Who made it and where can you get it? Renegade Kid made the game, Gambitious published it. It’s currently out on Nintendo 3DS and Steam for $9.99, and will be coming to PS4 and Vita this spring. On Steam, a Special Edition is available for $14.99 containing a bonus dev diary and soundtrack. The 3DS version also appears to be on sale at the moment for only $4.99, though I don’t know the specifics of how long that’s going to last.

How much did we play? I’ve spent a couple hours with the Steam PC edition so far. According to the in-game save file progress tracker, I’m sitting on 59% completion, so I’m guessing there’s probably four to five hours of content to beat the game and get 100% completion.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? I’ll just give a heads-up that all the options for tweaking resolution and rebinding keys are only available in a top bar pull-down menu while viewing the game in windowed mode. When I first booted the game, I immediately hit Alt+Enter to go full screen before noticing the settings menu, and it took a few minutes to find it and get my gamepad bindings set up.

Xeodrifter_2

Why should you play it?

    • Mutant Mudd-vania: Have you played Renegade Kid’s previous game, Mutant Mudds Deluxe? (If you haven’t, go do so right now. It’s great!) That game paid homage to old school Mario-style 2D platforming the way this game harks back to NES and SNES era Metroid. More than that, Xeodrifter shares a lot of the same core game design principles as well as the plane-shifting mechanic that gave Mutant Mudds such a unique slant. After acquiring the ability from an early boss fight, you are able to hit a button at specific areas and have the game’s male counterpart to Samus Aran jump from the foreground plane to distant areas existing concurrently on another plane in the background. As Metroidvania games are built on the whole idea of map discovery and figuring out how to reach previously inaccessible areas, this mechanic opens up a whole new method of exploration. Sometimes you have to shift into the background, ascend a series of platforms, and then shift back to the foreground, where you will be at the top of an otherwise unreachable ledge. Plane shifting also allows you to get to the other side of an impenetrable wall or reach precious upgrade collectibles hidden off in the distance. Things get even more interesting during the iterative boss encounters, in which the battles unfold across both planes. As shifts are made between the foreground and background the boss’ attacks and movements change, adding an extra layer of challenge to the otherwise traditional pattern recognition boss design.

    • Sweet Power-ups: Holding true to Metroidvania tradition, Xeodrifter follows a familiar progression flow of exploring an area, filling in the pause menu maps, defeating a boss to gain a new ability, and then retracing your steps to use that new ability to access an area you couldn’t before and ultimately face off against another boss with some other power to steal. The power-ups don’t simply retread old ground either. Instead of the usual abilities like an obligatory double-jump or a ground slide, this game hands out power-ups like a submarine so you can navigate underwater passages, a jetpack to rocket high into the air, and a Flash-style dash move to sprint over long pools of hazardous liquid (or just to run really, really fast and cover ground more quickly). These navigation-based abilities pair nicely with plane shifting, making for a number of tricky sequences where you have to time foreground and background jumps just right while running or flying up a vertical cave shaft. Additionally, there are a dozen HP extenders to find, as well as a dozen gun upgrades that can be socketed into five different weapon types however you like, sort of like customizing a skill tree in an RPG. Upgrade points can be mixed and matched in any combination to have bullets shoot faster, become larger in size, or fire in spread shot or wavy patterns, and you can even save up to three upgrade loadouts to have multiple weapon styles ready to swap in and out with a quick visit to the pause menu. This game’s design may be rooted in the 80s and 90s, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a number of clever little tricks it has hiding up its sleeve.

Parting Thoughts: Although it is fairly small in scope–the game spans four separate planet maps reached by flying a spaceship back and forth across a top-down level selection hub–Xeodrifter nails everything that a retro Metroidvania game should be. Even with the heavy reliance on backtracking, as is common for the genre, the sense of progression is beautifully paced and the environments are just big enough to make it feel like you’re exploring an uncharted galaxy with many secrets to uncover. You may hit a few rough patches where you will die and have to replay large chunks of a map–other than pre-boss checkpoints and a save station in the spaceship, there are no other mid-level save points–but the compact nature of the levels and fair difficulty curve largely mitigate any moments of frustration. Overall, there is a purity to Xeodrifter‘s gameplay, pixel art, and chiptune sounds that wistful gamers of an older age will absolutely adore and even modern players may find hard to resist.

Disclosure: A free Steam code for Xeodrifter was provided to VGBlogger.com for coverage purposes.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!