Xeodrifter is an explorative 2D run and gun platformer for Nintendo 3DS. It is also available elsewhere, but the version I played was the 3DS download of this indie title. I think many would like to call it a Metroidvania game, but it’s really much more like a bite-sized version of Metroid more specifically. You’re just flying through space when an asteroid hits your ship and damages your warp core. You’ll need to fly on impulse between the four nearby planets in order to look for something to repair it. You can pick and switch between them in whatever manner you’d like, but something tells me there won’t just be a brand new warp core on the surface of any of these places.
The gameplay has you selecting one of the four planets to land on and then exploring that planet from the landing zone. You can save and heal yourself up on your ship, but out on those planets you’ll need to survive on your own. You start off with a standard gun and the ability to move and jump. You’ll find all kinds of unknown but undoubtedly hostile creatures that you’ll have to gun down or avoid if you want to survive. As you explore you’ll find powerups to increase your maximum health and gun upgrades. The gun upgrading system is unique in that each point you get can be distributed to one of the different sections on the touchscreen that do different things. They can make your shots wiggle, make them shoot in a spread pattern, make them fly faster, make them do more damage, and increase the fire rate. The more points in a section, the greater the effect. You can also make three presets to quickly switch between. Eventually you will find yourself at a boss battle. Defeating the boss will usually reward you with an item that gives you a new ability, such as the dashing ability for example. There is only one boss that keeps coming back in all the fights, and it evolves with each iteration. You use your new abilities to further explore the areas on each planet. Collect all the important items to repair your warp drive and get back to your space travels or… whatever it is you were doing before, I suppose.
It’s pretty simple stuff. I like the colorful pixel art and appropriately responsive controls. You jump is at a fixed height, which could be weird to get used to for some, but it adds to the challenge and the game is built with it in mind, so don’t let it bother you too much. The weapon upgrade system is awesome. I love how it’s so simple, yet it offers so much diversity and can be used in a lot of interesting ways. I also like the Metroid style in general. I mean, going onto alien planets and just exploring for yourself is very appealing to me. I like getting new abilities and having those allow for further exploration in numerous other previous areas. Finding the secrets with them is very rewarding as well. The boss fights I thought were pretty interesting too. The fact that you fight the same boss each time might sound lame, but it keeps adding new things to its attack patterns that will require you to use your new abilities in order to adapt. This lets you still have some idea of how to fight it each time while still giving you something new to learn. It also builds up a connection with the boss character, which is interesting considering there’s no dialogue or anything. Plus, you get a checkpoint before the boss so you can try if you die, which is nice since the only save point is all the way back on your ship. The soundtrack is also pretty cool. I also think the touchscreen integration and the use of the 3D effects are pretty neat, even though I’m not a big fan of those in general. The game gets in, does what it needs to do, and then ends. It’s fun, challenging, and paced incredibly well.
Here’s the tricky thing. I think it certainly does enough and it end up being a really well-crafter experience, but it only took me about 4 hours to beat on my first playthrough. Depending on your skill and completion rate, it’ll probably only last 3-5 hours. That’s not bad for me since I like that I can have this experience without it taking tons of hours for a change, and it’s not like you’re only playing for ten minutes or anything. However, I think a lot of people will want it to be longer. See, I WOULD like to see a sequel or something like that. I’d like to see these mechanics expanded upon and just having more of a good thing always sounds good on paper. I just don’t think it NEEDS to be longer. You might not think it’s worth the price for the playtime, and you’re allowed. I just don’t think such a good experience needs to be judged by one playthrough but rather the sum of time you’ll put in playing it again over the course of owning it. The jump arc I already addressed, but be aware of it as you may not like it. I think some of the secrets are a little bullshit because you just have to try going through walls without any clear indication that that’s what you’re supposed to do. If there were some clever visual hints then I’d be fine with it, but it’s just guesswork. Also, the end section after the last boss feels out of place to me. It’s not bad, it’s just… odd for that point in the game out of nowhere. I think the touchscreen interface could have some bigger buttons or have ways to expand the display as some of the things are hard to tap accurately and the maps can seem a bit dinky at times. Oh, and would it have killed them to include a save point or two within the damn levels?
Xeodrifter is really fun. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Metroid games. It looks great, plays great, and it has no filler. It’s a great little game to have on your 3DS, and it’s available on other systems as well if you’re interested. It believe it generally costs ten bucks, and I’m okay with that price, but wait for a sale if you’re worried about the length. I just hope you don’t let that put you off. It’s one of the best paced gaming experiences I’ve had in a while and I’d hate for you to miss out on it. Plus, it does that neat weapon thing so… I mean… I like that. Check it out!