How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. In spite of opening up with a Level Select of sorts, the backtracking and ability gating loop sticks very close the Metroid formula.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~3 hours
Review Info: Xeodrifter was played on Steam
Buy Xeodrifter if you like…
- Shorter Games
- Secret Hunting
- Simple Mechanics with Challenge
- Upgrading bosses
- Open Choice
▼ Review continues below ▼
You’re flying through space minding your own business when an asteroid knocks out your warp engine. You hate it when that happens. Stuck in the vicinity of four planets, you have no choice but to land and explore to maybe find a replacement part to get your ship going again. Some of the locals don’t take too kindly to your presence there though, so what do you do? Kill them. Especially the big ones.
While based on the theming you might not be much of a hero in Xeodrifter, it still presents a very fun interpretation of the Metroidvania genre. It sticks very close to the loop of finding dead ends with a hint that you require something more, and then exploring to find the tool to surmount the obstacle. Being so close to its Metroid inspirations runs the risk of it simply being an easily replaceable bog-standard formula follower, but it does defy enough expectations to make it worth checking out. One of the game’s powers literally adds an extra layer of depth to the exploration, and you rapidly level up your movement and weapon capabilities, which helps to keep the gameplay fresh for the whole playthrough.
Every power introduces a new type of level design. Talking too much about it would spoil an already relatively short experience, but Xeodrifter really knows how to combine multiple powers to create a respectable challenge both in combat and in exploration. It has far more hits than misses, and every new area provides a great new way to test your mettle. Exploring old areas also provides fun ways to change up your gameplay. Gun upgrades don’t just add a +1 to your damage – instead you choose from a few options how you want your gun to expand, from increasing rapid fire to causing it to wave up and down – making aiming less of an issue.
While the level design is generally clever throughout, you may find yourself a little frustrated with the amount of backtracking necessary to achieve 100%. You choose which planet you can go to using you space ship, aside from that skip between areas, on the planets themselves there’s no fast way back into out space once you’re deep beneath its crust. This will force a considerable amount of walking time if you happen to land on a planet you’re not quite ready to tackle yet. I personally got pretty lucky on my guesses for where to go, but even then I’d occasionally work my way through a gauntlet of enemies only to discover I lacked the necessary power and resetting the game was my fastest solution to the problem. While there seems to be a few items that can be obtained out of order, you’re bound to run into this problem a lot.
It becomes quickly apparent that the object of the game is to find boss rooms, since those are the only places that award movement ability upgrades. This is a pretty typical design choice, however the issue with Xeodrifter doing this is that it really only has one boss (I think canonically they’re technically different aliens, but they look similar.) The gimmick is that every time you face this big alien creature it adds a new move to its pattern. It starts out simply dashing or jumping across the room at you, and by the end of the game it’s shooting lasers and causing rocks to fall from the ceiling. It’s an interesting experiment with tutorialized game design – the designer can make the boss harder and harder without it seeming unfair to the player – but it’s also not particularly interesting to deal with the same patterns over and over even if you can look forward to a new one popping up later in the fight. There’s one pattern in particular that I didn’t find too fun in the first place, so seeing it three more times wasn’t really a treat. I would have rather adapted to a completely new boss pattern that I hated, than to face the same one multiple times.
I don’t want to sound too negative on Xeodrifter though, while I think some of its quirks might be dealbreakers for some, I still enjoyed all of my time with it. Customizing my gun for different situations made me feel clever, and I imagine that speed runners will get a kick out of routing the best possible way to beat the game. It’s a bit shorter than other modern Metroidvania games which may disappoint some people, especially with the amount of backtracking you’ll inevitably be doing along the way. However, the controls are tight and the challenges are good; if price is a concern then waiting for a sale is recommended, but you’ll get a good game either way.
Gun Upgrade system has nice variety, unfortunately there aren't a ton of enemy types or new bosses to try it on - some repetition
Your platforming mettle is not heavily tested, but it's also never frustrating
Secrets are sometimes brilliantly tucked away, and other times require a ton of backtracking to get to for a minor reward
No real puzzles to speak of other than normal ability gating
Basic story that doesn't detract from what's more important, even if a broad interpretation sort of paints you as a bad guy
Pixel art is attractive and conveys the action perfectly
While generally appropriate it's also mostly forgettable
You can challenge yourself by using different gun upgrades, and it's possible there are many ways to break sequence - speed runners will enjoy this one
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