|What secrets lie in the background...? It's a health boost.|
Oh, damn. Well, at least they cooked up a nice Metroid homage to finish out 2014 with!
-It's Metroid. Xeodrifter tries to be the little brother of Samus as much as it can and it does a fine job of encompassing that feeling.
-Satisfying sense of progression and a world littered with trinkets that are seriously worth it.
-An amazing blaster system that is absolutely genius.
-With such a great weapon system, you would hope that it would be put to good use. (Spoiler! It isn't.)
-Repetitive boss battles
-Too good to be as short as it is.
It pains me to write this review that's critical of a game like Xeodrifter, because addictive gameplay is only a negative when the game in question is very short. And unfortunately, that's Xeodrifter's fatal flaw. The game doesn't hold your hand, it allows you to learn everything you need to know simply by exploring. Of course, there isn't much to know- you need to find a warp core for your ship or else you can't leave the star system, and there's a set of powerups you can use to get them on the nearby planets. The trouble is, they're being used by some particularly nasty wildlife already.
The opening of Xeodrifter is as abrupt and punishing as one would expect from a Metroid-styled game. You must learn the value of patience, reading your enemies, and making use of your jump. Of course, once you master these things within the first two boss-fights, it becomes a bit easier. A key power up in this game is the plane shift, which is a manual version of the mechanic from Mutant Mudds. It works very well in this game and it's good to see the 3DS getting use out of the effect, even if it has been done before. Once you obtain the plane shift, the game begins to progress at an increasing rate.
I mentioned the weapon system, which is really quite a lovely thing. Gun "points" are scattered throughout the map, and it is up to you to sniff them out and add them to your collection. A gun point can be applied to a number of different settings- the rate of your rapid fire, the speed of your bullets, the power of each individual pellet, and even how the shots fire and how large they are. It's quite ingenious and the developers upped the fun factor by allowing you to "save" three sets, one for every combat situation. While this system is awesome, it would be better-suited against a wide variety of enemy types and different combinations of them, which the game unfortunately lacks. It's still a neat idea even so, and can prove quite useful in boss battles.
While the bosses are just increasingly aggressive and difficult versions of the same critter, they learn new moves that you have to deal with as you progress- in other words, they match your abilities with new ones of their own, and sometimes can prove quite annoying. However, a very forgiving checkpoint system allows you to be fully healed and right outside the boss lair after losing each time, so the game really doesn't punish you all that much.
I was a bit surprised to hear the Xeodrifter was coming so soon, especially after its somewhat abrupt announcement during the summer (after Treasurenauts had been shown for so long). But, of course, its four-hour playtime says it all- this is not a game heavy on content. Taking on the task of finding every powerup is the most time you'll spend with it, and after that, there's not much else to return to the game to play. The game is Metroid-lite, in that it is based around the core gameplay ideas but it is streamlined to the point where there's little meat left- the maps are straightforward save for a few hidden powerups tucked in here and there, and they aren't interconnected in any way (as separate planets, I don't know why they would be, but the option was available). Xeodrifter begs for more, especially at a hefty $9.99 price point, and I seriously hope that Renegade Kid isn't finished with the title and this game becomes a case similar to Mutant Mudds, which is one of the best-priced titles on the eShop, in my opinion.
Final Verdict: I'm torn on Xeodrifter. On one hand, it scratched an itch I needed taken care of desperately, as one can never really have enough Metroid. But it also feels hollow, replicating many of the ideas without a true sense of depth. Ultimately, the question I ask is this: how much depth SHOULD a nine dollar eShop game have? Considering I have played an eShop RPG with a wealth of content and unique mechanics for less than that, I think my point stands (though that IS an RPG...). While I think it's a fantastic game, it requires a much-needed price drop before I can truly give it a recommendation.