Renegade Kid is an indie game developer who I really respect, but to be honest their output has always left me a little bit cold. What first put them on the map was making first-person-shooters for the DS (Moon, Dementium), which really pushed that system’s capabilities. Those games were undeniably impressive, but really frustrating to control and, frankly, not all that fun. More recently, they seem to have turned their attention to making old-school retro-themed platformers, most notably Mutant Mudds, which had some neat tricks up its sleeve but mostly felt to me like a generic, dull Sega Master System game or something.
Still, I’ve always hoped this developer would eventually win me over, so when they released a Metroidvania title called Xeodrifter for the 3DS back in December of 2014, I decided to give it a try. I played it for maybe 45 minutes before I was bored to tears and gave up. Then on July 30th of this year, the game was ported to the Wii U, and available for free to those who’d purchased the 3DS version. That kind of cross-buy promotion is something I really appreciate, so I figured Xeodrifter had earned another pass. And this time, in one three-and-a-half-hour gameplay session, I beat it.
Xeodrifter is Metroid-esque, but structurally it most resembles Metroid Fusion. Fusion is a terrific game, but is also infamous for taking the franchise’s most beloved feature – huge explorable environments – and breaking them down into smaller chunks. That same disappointing concept is at play in Xeodrifter. The game world consists of four completely separate planets, connected via a spaceship hub, each of which serves as a Metroid environment in miniature.
As in any Metroidvania title, gameplay consists mostly of exploration, and the gradual discovery of new abilities which allow you to reach new areas. The problem with Xeodrifter is that each individual area is so small that revisiting them feels less like exploration and more like traversing through a well-worn obstacle course. An obstacle course filled with really fucking annoying enemies, by the way.
The power-ups you receive, at least, feel fairly original and not just like Metroid retreads. Well, for the most part. The obligatory dash and high-jump abilities are included, but you can also turn into a submarine to explore underwater areas, and customize your gun with a variety of upgradable Contra-esque shooting patterns. The most interesting power-up, though, is one that Renegade Kid borrowed directly from their previous game Mutant Mudds – the ability to switch back and forth between foreground and background planes. Making these jumps is probably the most fun I had with the game, and is responsible for its most effective platforming and puzzling.
So that’s pretty cool, but I just wish these decent ideas were let loose in a more fleshed out game. As it stands, Xeodrifter kinda seems like a neat little germ of an idea that nobody bothered to finish. This is never clearer than during the game’s boss fights. There are seven of them altogether, but each time you are fighting the SAME GODDAMN BOSS, just with increasingly more complex attack patterns. Oh, and different color palettes. Seriously, it’s just the same fucking monster over and over again.
Come on, Renegade Kid! Surely you can do better than this?? Anyway, after 3 and a half hours, I finished the game:
Here are my final stats:
I wouldn’t call Xeodrifter a bad game by any means, but with so many better games of this genre out there, it’s hard to really recommend this, especially at the asking price of $10. If it goes on sale at some point for half that price or less, then it might be worth it for an afternoon of competent Metroiding, but otherwise don’t bother. Sorry, Renegade Kid!
The Quiet Collection