Before you read
I am very familiar with the Metroidvania genre, having played a serious lot of them. This review won’t compare them to other Metroidvania games, but I will compare the game structure to how I view a Metroidvania should be. I have also played Renegade Kid’s other game Mutant Mudds but since they’re vastly different games, it’s no use comparing this game to that one as well. This game has been played on Steam, and the review has been made after I’ve 100% completed the game, including the speedrun achievement.
Here are some of the chiptunes to listen to while reading the review. It’s a decent OST, nothing too outstanding but it’s not bad either.
Xeodrifter has been this game I’ve had on my wishlist forever, but never did I feel the necessity to buy it despite it only being 1 buck every sale. I never really had a reason for it though, the game looked fun in its own right. One day I was looking for short games to stream on Twitch and was like heck, let’s buy the double pack containing both this game and Mutant Mudds. I actually ended up streaming the latter funnily enough, but since my original goal was to play Xeodrifter I figured I’d play that as well. Didn’t really end up streaming it in the end, and actually beat it in one sitting as well on a random Saturday when I was too bored. So today, let’s take a look at Xeodrifter!
Xeodrifter is unlike most Metroidvanias, being split up into four different stages instead of having an interconnected map. This already poses an interesting question: how are progression and backtracking handled? Most Metroidvanias allow you to go wherever you want to go if you have the right upgrade. In Xeodrifter’s case, progression is determined by what upgrade you have. While all four planets are selectable from the start, there is only one that you can truly go to without upgrades. And this is unfortunately always the case; with each upgrade you get, there is only one (part of a) planet you can progress through. For example, two planets force you to go underwater, it being the only way forward. One of the other planets has toxins that prevent you from going further, so there is only one option. This planet does give you the submarine upgrade, allowing you to go underwater. The worst part is that only one of the two planets with underwater is the next planet to visit, and you know which one after you come out of the water. This formula of progression happens throughout the entire game, and it only grabs the basic elements of a Metroidvania: backtracking through previously visited levels. Fortunately some optional power-ups are also hidden behind an upgrade-required section so most of the time a revisit to an older stage is not unrewarded. The levels themselves are mostly linear hallways as well however, with almost no upgrade-related shortcuts. There are rarely branches in stages and when they exist, it’s usually for mandatory revisits later on. This means that you have to go through the same stage literally every time with no changes, only branching off of it when needed for the story. Power-ups are usually on the main road, though there are some secrets a la walls you can go through which… are only seldom indicated, so prepare to hug walls. And this is what I mean with calling Xeodrifter a Metroidvania Light: it takes the most basic elements of how a Metroidvania is structured and puts it into a linear, non-connected world.
How is the gameplay though?
Gameplay is also very important to a Metroidvania. You could have the most beautiful and complex worlds, but if your character controls horribly, then nobody is interested in exploring said world. On that front, the protagonist does not control bad with emphasis being on ”not bad”. I say this because he has a fixed jump height, and can not shoot in eight directions which at times would have been really useful. The stages are designed around this so it’s not all bad; it just doesn’t make him control better than most Metroidvania protagonists. To compensate for the few directions to shoot in however, there are a good amount of gun upgrades that does make a good difference. The gun at first is weak, but eventually you can choose a wider spread, more damage or even a faster rate of fire. The best part of this upgrade-able gun mechanic is that it can be spread over three different builds, and upgrade points can be allocated or removed at any given point in time with no consequences. The gun does become truly powerful; perhaps broken even with the right combinations as I had no trouble with the latter half of the game. Other than the default controls of the protagonist, he is also able to gain new abilities after beating a boss. I mentioned going underwater before, but he can also dash at high speed and steal an ability from its big brother Mutant Mudds to shift between planes. Several abilities are also used in conjunction with each other, making for fun platforming sections. The abilities are by no means original for a Metroidvania aside from plane shifting, but they do function well enough and that does mostly compensate for the fixed jump height and weak weapon with little directions to shoot in.
Paint a boss green, is new boss.
Since the scale of the game isn’t that big, the diversity in enemies also isn’t great. That isn’t really too big a problem for me as they balance it out with each other, but somehow the game has a total of seven bosses! That sounds crazy right? Until you learn they use the same sprite every fight and just throw a random bucket of paint at it. Now in the game’s defence, every battle adds something new to this boss’ arsenal so I guess it teaches you the boss over the course of the game? And you get to use some of your abilities in later fights like plane shifting. So on one hand, that might have been the idea behind repeating boss battles; It just gets really boring after a while, and by the so-manieth time you already know what he’s going to do. Besides, the only checkpoints in the game are before a boss so you already get enough opportunity for trial and error. Oh yeah speaking about that, checkpoints are indeed very infrequent. Enemies also don’t drop health, and containers with health are usually hidden so there is an illusion of difficulty here. I personally didn’t have too much of an issue with it since stages are short and the game isn’t super difficult or anything, but it is something to keep in mind for the more inexperienced gamers.
Before going into Xeodrifter, you should realise that what you’re about to play is a budget Metroidvania. Describing it as a budget game does not necessarily mean it’s bad as it isn’t; it’s enjoyable to play and the main protagonist controls pretty well despite having a fixed jump height and a very weak gun at first that is unable to shoot in multiple directions. But the Metroidvania part of the game is lacklustre, always having forced progress instead of giving you multiple options where to go. It’s also a shame that you don’t unlock shortcuts with newly-obtained upgrades, meaning that you have to go through the same sections more often than not. This is further emphasised by the world not being connected, but separated into four different levels. Boss fights are constantly repeated as well and while they function well as a ”get to learn the boss’ patterns” boss, it just gets boring after the fourth or fifth encounter. Xeodrifter is a fine game for the amount of hours it lasts (which is not long), but don’t set your expectations too high; this game isn’t going to change your viewpoint on the Metroidvania genre. I give Xeodrifter 3.5 unoriginal bosses out of 5!
And that was my review of Xeodrifter! I have been fairly objective towards this game even though I said I would mostly share my personal experiences, but funnily enough those experiences ended up being objective. I should stress that I don’t think Xeodrifter is a bad game; actually, it’s perfectly capable. But I do feel you should take into consideration the price you’re willing to pay. It’s priced 10 bucks normally, and at that price you can get a lot of great Metroidvania games surpassing this one. But every time it goes on sale it’s 1 buck, and there aren’t that many Metroidvania games–or games in general–that can compete with that price value. Which actually brings me to the question of the review:
Question of the Review: What game that is 1 buck or cheaper would you recommend to other gamers? Let me know down below or reply on my Twitter!