Release Date: 15 February 2018
Price: $9.99 / £8.99
Reviewed by Clay Howard
Undoubtedly one of the strongest things working for the Nintendo Switch right now is its steady flow of killer indie titles on the eShop. While some are games that are new to the market, others are re-releasing after being out for years.
While some may groan at this, I find it an exciting way to discover amazing games that I may have missed in years past. Xeodrifter is one of those games. To some it may be a game that released back in 2014, but to me this is a brand new game and a brand new experience.
Interstellar breakdown service
Xeodrifter is a Metroidvania style game initially released for the 3DS before making its way to many other consoles. The game has finally come to the Switch, though as far as I can tell, this release is a straight port of the game with no new additions.
The game begins with our hero astronaut flying through space, only to have his ship damaged by an asteroid. It’s up to the player to help find a new warp core to get the poor astronaut back on his way. Xeodrifter begins with the player having the option to travel to four different planets. Each one represents a different level that can be accessed in any order via the space ship. However, I quickly realised that exploration on most planets is limited at first without upgraded moves and abilities.
As the player begins to explore these planets, markers on the map give a clear indication of the objective you must make your way to. The astronaut starts his adventure with only three health containers and a weak, unimpressive blaster. However, not long after fighting a boss or two, the game starts to reward the player, with both health and weapon upgrades hidden throughout. As with most Metroidvanias, defeating each boss equips the astronaut with abilities to make previously out of reach areas accessible.
Tell me a secret
Xeodrifter contains a very fun and deep weapon customization menu allowing the player to create their own unique loadout. There are five different options including projectile speed, strength, fire rate, spread, and curve.
These include both fun and utilitarian choices, and the game does encourage trying multiple loadouts for different scenarios. This mechanic is super cool and really made me addicted to finding every upgrade I could possibly find.
Speaking of finding upgrades, this game has tons of different hidden paths and secrets throughout. Some lead to health and weapon upgrades, others even lead to fun easter eggs.
Even though it feels like many of these are found purely out of luck, stumbling across them is very rewarding. Adding another health extension or making your weapon stronger just feels so good.
The levels themselves are, for the most part, very enjoyable to traverse - with certain parts full of platforms to scale, as well as multiple underwater shootouts. Each planet also has new and ever more challenging enemies to face off against, all brilliantly designed. Part way through the game, the player is awarded after a boss fight with the ability to plane shift. This allows the player to swap between the foreground and background of the levels in specific parts of the game. It’s not as heavily featured as in Mutant Mudds, but it’s still a great feature that really adds to the overall travel and exploration in the game.
The bosses in Xeodrifter are an interesting and somewhat divided subject amongst fans. They are these big, alien bug dinosaur looking things, and each boss is a different colour than the ones before them. As you progress, they increase in difficulty and incorporate new attack patterns as the player becomes stronger and learns new moves.
I personally didn't have an issue with the lack of diversity in the bosses. Each one continued to be more and more of a challenge, and the more I faced them, the more I began to learn their moves and attack patterns. This allowed me to gain somewhat of a welcome upper hand, because these bosses are no joke. I died many times, especially towards the beginning. Luckily the developers were smart and generous enough to add checkpoints before and after each boss. This was such a welcome design choice, and made the game much more enjoyable to play.
It’s also worth noting that the HD rumble of the Switch felt super in tune with this game. Specific work was done to make the vibrations unique to this version, and it's brilliantly integrated throughout the game.
While some may find the overall length of the game a little on the short side, Metroidvanias can often outstay their welcome, and overall that hurts the game. I spent a handful of hours playing through Xeodrifter and did my very best to find every collectible, finishing the game with a 94% completion, only missing two health and one weapon upgrades. Personally, I feel that the length of the game is perfect, especially when you factor in the modest price tag.
The visuals of the game are on point and everything you’d expect from the high standard of quality from designer Jools Watsham. Brilliantly crafted pixel art makes this appear like a NES game on steroids. Tons of details are added to the environments, and the character designs and animations are well executed.
Things like sprite particles from explosions are a very nice touch, that show how much care and detail went into this game. The music in Xeodrifter is also top notch, adding an extra layer of sci-fi goodness on top. The chiptunes are fast paced and exciting, reminiscent of action games from the 8-bit era, and never felt repetitive, short, or re used.
When I first started up this game, I had no idea what to expect. I was a huge fan of Mutant Mudds but hadn’t really seen or heard much of anything about Xeodrifter. When I was finished with the game I left feeling very happy. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and it was a challenging adventure. If you typically avoid Metroidvanias or don’t normally enjoy them, I highly recommend you give this one a chance. With strong mechanics and fun customization and upgrades, it was hard to put the game down. The brilliant visuals and music made for an all around enjoyable and endearing sci-fi adventure. I love the world that was created and explored in this game, and I am hopeful for a sequel in the future.
Pros & Cons
+ Cool upgrades
+ Clear objectives
+ Perfect game length
- Low Replayability