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 Review: Xeodrifter (3DS eShop)

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Professor Clayton
Professor Clayton

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PostReview: Xeodrifter (3DS eShop)

Y Can't Xeodrifter Crawl?

Review: Xeodrifter (3DS eShop) Xeo_screen_01

Metroid is a series many gamers hold close to their hearts despite its being over two decades old. Among the many games Metroid has inspired over the years, none have quite managed to reach the pinnacle of success which Nintendo created for Samus Aran. However, a new challenger approaches, in form of Xeodrifter by Renegade Kid, a title which proudly displays its love for all things Metroid. But does Xeodrifter manage to live up to the name of its inspirtation, or does it simply fall short?

Xeodrifter is set in the depths of outer space, where an astronaut's warp engine dies and is dispersed throughout four closely spaced planets. With no other option, the silent protagonist must head out to each planet and reclaim his lost property in order to continue on through space. The plot is quick, simple and to the point, leaving plenty of room for the gameplay instead.

Review: Xeodrifter (3DS eShop) Xeo_screen_06

Each of the planets is drawn in good old fashioned pixel art, helping to evoke nostalgia from those who have memories of games past, but the resemblance to Metroid doesn't stop at the sweet visuals. Each world is prefectly designed so as to only offer one path on one world at a time, much like Metroid was, and Xeodrifter is essentially a true Metroidvania. This results in some backtracking of course, and if you don't like doing so you likely wouldn't like doing it here either.

Your astronaut begins his quest equipped with what appears to be a simple gun, and nothing else. Shooting is mapped to the Y button and jumping to the B, and that is all you originally have to begin exploration. While this seems limited, upgrades aplenty will be available throughout the adventure, all of which are crucial to your progress. Some technology you'll acquire will allow you to dive underwater in a submarine, switch between the forward and behind sections of the screen (exactly like Renegade Kid's flagship title, Mutant Mudds) and even sprint across molten lava unscathed.

Review: Xeodrifter (3DS eShop) Xeo_screen_11

Your main weapon also has an interesting take on upgrades, in that it is customizable with little gun upgrades you find scattered around. The gun is split into five categories, which increase speed, power, shot frequency, direction of shot and a wave shot. You can install gun upgrades in any of the categories and it will increase your gun in that regard, with a small selection of slots for each category. Experimenting with the gun setup is key, and Xeodrifter realizes this, and has opted to make gun setup painlessly easy by putting it on the touch screen. On the go setup and having three slots to save your gun in allows for a fairly strategic weapon upgrading portion of the game.

There is no point in having a weapon system without enemies though, and here is where Xeodrifter has its largest problems. Each world consists of the same few enemies, possibly recolored, and not much is ever new. You quickly learn how to defeat enemies and can then defeat them easily every time you keep running into them. Enemy placement is also an issue, not because it is challenging but because it can be almost unfair sometimes. Traveling underwater requires you to move slowly, almost snail-like in fact; when enemies are randomly flying in off screen at you underwater, you have no time to react and take a large chunk of damage. The same happens on land occasionally, but generally there you have time to jump away.

Boss battles also suffer from repetition, as each boss is exactly the same as the one before it, albeit with one new move in its arsenal. Adapting to a new move in a tense boss fight is tricky, but makes the subsequent fights that much easier as you can quickly counter all of the moves you're used to. By the final boss fight you know just about every move going in to the fight, and it can feel slightly tedious. Looking at the same boss repainted multiple times feels lazy as well, and boss fights are overall unimpressive despite the idea behind them.

Review: Xeodrifter (3DS eShop) Xeo_screen_09

One other issue Xeodrifter has is backtracking. While we touched on this earlier, backtracking plays a relevant role in the game, just like most Metroidavanias. Unfortunately, with only two checkpoints in each level, right before and after a boss fight, each death sends you back across the whole map. This is frustrating due to how many times you will die and have to slog through the same path again due to a low health bar.

While it isn't exactly the next Metroid everyone is waiting for, Xeodrifter is pretty darn close. Renegade Kid managed to nail to atmosphere, gameplay and level design of the classic series, and included a fun weapon upgrade system to boot. The whole experience is brought down by a few issues, some of which are also present in Metroid itself, yet Xeodrifter still manages to largely impress. If you've been wanting a quick handheld Metroidavania for a while now, look no further, as Xeodrifter is a prime example of the genre.

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