Xeodrifter is a sincere, authentic loveletter to fans of early SNES and NES platformers whose muscle memory craves and misses the old-school platforming challenge of yore. From the creators of the marvellous Mutant Mudds, Renegade Kid have created a wonderful 2D side-scroller Metroidvania. It is a short, sweet and incredibly polished adventure that wears its 8-bit and 16-bit influences proudly and confidently.
The premise is simple. You are an astronaut whose spaceship has been damaged by a rogue asteroid. In order to repair your ship’s warp drive you are tasked with exploring four distant planets, each representing different environments.
The planets can be explored in any order but power-ups (such as submarine, plane shift, running etc.) are needed to access new areas within the game. These power-ups are dropped by fiendish bosses (a la Megaman) that are hidden across all four planets. Sure, Xeodrifter’s systems may not be the freshest or the most innovative out there and it’s a shame that the same boss is recycled throughout the game, though different movesets do manage to spice things up. However, it is how Renegade Kid respectfully adheres to the formula with confidence and panache that really makes Xeodrifter such a successful Metroidvania.
For a start, the game has a fantastic atmosphere. The charming, ambient 8-bit music really hits all the right notes whilst the gear-change that the boss music provides really helps to up the ante. It reminds me alot of the old-school Gameboy games I used to play when I was a kid and I’ve forgotten how much of a good thing that really is!
The delightful pixel-art is also worth a mention. The enemies are varied and pretty creepy and though the environments are serviceable at best and forgettable at worst, the level design is anything but and is truly one of Xeodrifter’s strongest hands. Aside from the power-ups that you gain from the bosses, there are also weapon and life upgrades that are tucked away within the levels in hard to reach areas that help to add a little more depth to the gameplay. These weapon upgrades can be swapped on the fly and give you the choice of a faster fire-rate, more powerful bullets or even a scatter-shot effect that helps attack a larger area. It’s a nice touch that offers a little experimentation when it comes to the combat.
If you’re like me and grew up with games like Megaman on the Gameboy, there really is a lot to love about Xeodrifter. It’s mix of old and new is a pleasant surprise and though it offers little replay value beyond a handful of collectibles and trophies it is very much worth the trip for its charming presentation and simple yet elegant gameplay.
Ultimately, Xeodrifter may not set everybody’s world on fire but those looking for an old-school action-adventure with a satisfying challenge and a warp-drive full of heart should look no further.
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