Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on a PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
1994’s Super Metroid is a game that would go on to inspire the design behind many games. Xeodrifter is one such game that wants to blend the action, platforming, and exploration that made the game so famous. But does Xeodrifter get it right, or is it just another failed attempt at the throne?
There’s not much story to Xeodrifter. After suffering a warp core failure from an asteroid impact a man becomes stuck between four planets. There’s a warp core to be found in this area, but to get to it he must go through a series of challenges. There’s no real cutscenes in Xeodrifter and after the opening crash the story is never really brought up again.
Xeodrifter has a style that looks solid enough, and that references the NES classics that started the genre. Yet the pixel-art graphics wouldn’t mean much if the game didn’t also have an artstyle to match. Thankfully, Xeodrifter looks pretty pleasant. Each of the four planets and their inhabitants look unique, even if they’re mechanically the same. The game’s lone boss enemy looks a bit off though, almost looking too cute to fit in with the rest of the game. Xeodrifter’s soundtrack sounds nice enough, fitting in with the aesthetic. It works with the game, but it’s not something I’d listen to outside of it.
Xeodrifter is a metroidvania and features an explorer that must go through four planets, defeating bosses and finding power-ups to get get the warp core. The game plays similar to older Metroid games: you can move right and left and can only fire forward and up. The explorer will discover power-ups along the way that lets him do things like dive underwater, shift into the background, and dash across lava. He’ll have to fight enemies too, of course, and the occasional boss along the way.
Yet the exploration doesn’t quite feel as good as a Metroid game. There’s not much worth finding, and for the most part all I ever found was either extra health or upgrade points for my guns. Worse, most of these aren’t hidden in places that required me to use my abilities. Instead they were just hidden inside of walls that I needed to bump up against until I pass through ones that had secrets. Getting a skill that lets me shoot up like a rocket is cool, but it got to a point where I always knew I was going the right way if I had to bring out the abilities.
Combat is pretty simplistic too. I could find upgrade points to my gun that would let me change up how the gun work, but I had to collect several upgrade points before I would notice any real change. I could do things like increase damage, fire rate, or make my bullets travel in waves rather than in lines, but honestly I found just dumping all my points into speed and damage was far more useful. I also got a charge shot eventually, but it required shutting my normal gun off so outside of puzzles I didn’t find it worth using.
Enemies mostly followed the same patterns: moving back and forth and sometimes jumping. Occasionally they shoot bullets, but it felt like I was fighting the same enemies over and over again during the game. It gets worse with the game’s boss fights, which is just the same boss over and over again. I’m not using hyperbole here: There’s about 7 boss fights in Xeodrifter and all of them are against the same boss. Every fight he adds a little more to the pattern, but it doesn’t change the feeling that I’m just repeating the same fight over and over.
Xeodrifter isn’t a long game, by going through the story and doing some exploration I had the game finished in about 5 hours. While I feel Xeodrifter had a few decent moment, overall I didn’t really find it to be a game I was enjoying in the long run.