Let’s take a look at … – Xeodrifter (PS Vita)

Last week we covered the news that Xeodrifter, a metro-style platformer from award winning indie devs Regenage Kid, is now available on PS Vita. Well, we’ve since been given a key, and I’ve been playing it! Here’s what I think of Xeodrifter on Vita.

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Let me start by clarifying that I’ve not played Xeodrifter on any other platform before, so all comments are in regards to the Vita version only. This also directly contributed to my confusion playing the title.

Let’s start from the beginning. The game opens to a view of a space ship travelling through space. You hit a comet, take damage that wipes out your warp drive, and you find yourself stranded in the middle of a small collection of planets. You’re free to visit any of them, so I head to the top one. I step onto the planet, and get owned. Really owned. Try another planet, and it’s full of water and I can’t swim. Another planet and a big eyed bastard fires a laser at me and fries me instantly. WHAT IS GOING ON!

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The first 15 minutes playing Xeodrifter was the most I’ve been confused playing a game in a long time. Everything seemed to just own me, paths were blocked, and the menu looked like something that was found at Roswell. I had no idea what I was doing, but managed to stumble upon my first boss, and decided to run at him shooting … poor decision. Xeodrifter is a hard game. It’s one of these where you don’t just run around and go crazy on a boss, you have to learn the moves, the patterns, and execute your moves carefully in response.

After what seemed like 3 million deaths, I took a deep breath, watched the bosses moves, and I killed him! The problem was I was so frustrated by this point, that I didn’t really saver the victory. Part of this was down to my own inability, but I don’t want to take all the blame. Xeodrifter could do more to tell you what’s going on. You’re given nothing. I only knew there was an upgrade system for your weapon because of Steam comments I’ve read! It’s very much a case of ‘work it out yourself’ but, for me, it’s a bit too much. The smallest of tutorials would have helped immensely in getting into the game, and skipping the whole ‘I want to throw my Vita into the road’ phase.

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After killing my first boss I was back to a brick wall, with every path seemingly lead to either a dead-end or an unbeatable enemy. I resorted to a YouTube walkthrough to see what was going on. And then it clicked. The video showed that there are hidden powerups throughout the levels that you really need to collect to continue. That in turn made the menu make sense, and the fact that some paths were blocked now made total sense; I don’t have the correct abilities yet, so need to come back. The YouTube video provided the context and instructions that I think should be there from the start; at-least in some capacity.

Controls are very simple. With the left stick you move, and then you press square you’ll shoot in the direction you’re aiming. That means your limited to only shooting in four absolute directions, but that’s part of the Metroid charm that the game has. Movement feels good for the most part. Sometime when jumping up multiple ledges, the inertia that the character carries felt cumbersome, but for the most part they feel good.

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As mentioned, hidden throughout the levels are health and weapon upgrades, and these really are key to moving forward. Your weapon has a number of different categories that can be upgraded that range from increasing fire speed, power and scatter shot etc. Something I really like about this system is you have three weapon setups available, you’re not limited to picking a single setup. You can assign your upgrade points three times, to create three individual setups and change between them at any point.

There are 7 bosses I believe in Xeodrifter, I’m only up to bass 2 myself, and each boss drops a power when defeated. These are entire game mechanics, and are required to continue working through the planets. The first one you receive is the submarine. Finally, now I understand why everywhere was blocked with water! The second upgrade you get is a Phase Shift which allows you to shift between the front and back layer. Again, much more of the planets are now accessible so it’s time to revisit each and find what you missed.

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Xeodrifter is a tough game, and I’ve played tough games before that make you really work for your score, but I just wasn’t feeling it with Xeodrifter. I’ve been looking for a game like this for my Vita for a while now, and really thought this would be it, but it missed the mark for me. It’s not a bad game by any means, but I just didn’t feel very rewarded after the tough battles and the work needed to progress. It felt very empty.

If I hadn’t had found that YouTube video explaining the game, I would have just put it down after the first 20 minutes. I’m glad I didn’t, I enjoyed my time with it, but I don’t think my play time will get much higher.

Tl:dr – Xeodrifter is a tough and confusing Metroid style platformer. If you stick with it enough to learn how to enjoy it, there is a good experience in there. For those not into their hard-core platformers this will turn into an exercise in self-control. Those into their tough platformers may relish the challenge, but for me it wasn’t substantial enough to justify the work it wanted.

Rating – 6.5/10

Purchase – £6.99/$9.99 Steam | PSN

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Mos Speedrun 2

Mos Speedrun 2 is a precision platformer recently released by Physmo. Sure, there are plenty of platformers out there, but Mos Speedrun 2 brings some unique game features to the table that makes it stand out. Fans of precision platform should definitely give it a look in, so let’s check it out!

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This cute, colorful, pixel-graphics game offers 30 levels of challenge. Guide your little creature through the map, jumping over enemies, picking up coins, capturing way-points, bopping around moving platforms, and avoiding the plentiful environmental hazards.

In typical precisions platformer style, one hit will send you back to the start of the level. The only respite are way-points that can be found at various points throughout the levels. They’re only good for one use though, die twice and you go back to the beginning regardless. Get to the end to unlock the next map! Simple idea, but the play isn’t as easy as it sounds.

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You can make getting to the end of the map your goal, but if you want to challenge yourself to be the best, you can beat the level in the lowest time possible, collect all the coins around the map, and also discover the gold skulls hidden in various, dangerous spots. There is definitely a lot of replay value for those who want to improve their previous score and earn badges for completing goals.

Another cute aspect of this game is the costume feature. By finishing levels, you can unlock new items to wear on your adventures, which mix and match. Lastly, one unique option is to have “ghosts” turned on, so you can see your previous runs, best run, and friends’ runs in that map while you play.

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I used a controller for this game. Obviously, the major action in platformers is jumping. Moving the joystick up created one type of jump, while hitting a button created another. This took some getting used to, but generally, the controls are intuitive. (Although I’m still trying to get used to wall jumps)

I waste a lot of time trying to get this platforming just right, and often wind up killing myself anyways! It definitely takes a lot of patience and can be very frustrating, but successive runs will help you get better at each level and eventually pass it. Then you start all over on the next one!

Tl;dr – This game is everything a precision platformer needs: basic graphics, tight controls, a learning curve, and plenty replayability. Dive in as deep into mastering this game as you want, it has plenty to offer for any type of platforming player.

Rating – 7.5/10

Purchase – Steam £5.99/$8.99 (On sale for £5.39/$8.09 until September 10th)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – The Dungeoning

My default favorite game type is RPG rogue-like platformers, so I didn’t hesitate to review Nick Donnelly’s The Dungeoning, which was released in April of last year. Despite the mixed reviews on Steam, I was determined to give this retro-style game a fair shot.

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This game is exactly what you’d expect from something of this genre- a procedural dungeon map with ghosts, bats, and other creepy crawlies, with chests and boxes to open, potions, and basic weapons to upgrade. Upgrade your character with the experience you get from kills. This is all very straightforward….and then there’s perma-death. Extremely frustrating, but that’s the reason I love these types of games.

The game tosses you in head-first. There’s very little instruction besides some pop-up tips that occasionally show up in the lower right of the screen. No real storyline. Music was nothing exciting.  Graphics are retro and simple, but I liked them immediately. Controls were not as intuitive as I’d liked (I often manage to use potions instead of wielding my sword). Of course, I died almost instantly right off the bat. The few achievements I earned in my following runs didn’t synch with Steam until about two hours of game-play in. For an achievement Nazi like me, that’s a big no-no.

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I decided quickly that I hated the game. It was boring and quirky and didn’t have much charm to it.  The controls (which I refused to even look into rebinding- I like testing the game as-is) and achievement issues bothered me. There wasn’t anything unique about this particular game that would make it more interesting than some of my other favorite rogue-likes, such as Rogue Legacy with its hilarious traits or Binding of Isaac with its black humor or Ascendant with its unique graphics and weapons.

I then realized something. I kept playing it. I couldn’t stop. Despite the lack of anything unique in this game, I found myself going back to it to try again. I still die often, but quickly made it to level nine after being stuck on level six for too many runs. I learned more about the way to react to baddies and how to upgrade intelligently, and my achievements came rolling in. Oh no, am I addicted? I think I am! Who cares about the music- I muted it and put my own on. Yeah, there isn’t anything unique about this particular game, but it does what it should- gets you hooked and makes you want to do better than your last run.

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So, I don’t hate the game. I actually LIKE it. It continues to frustrate me, but for other reasons. Level nine took it from difficult to insane- too many enemies around me to survive. It’s hard to live if you get swarmed and don’t have enough potions and items to heal yourself. I figure this is something else I’ll learn to overcome as I keep trying over and over.

Overall, I don’t think this game really deserves its mixed reviews. I give it a thumbs-up. If you just want a difficult perma-death rogue-like to play, pick this game up. Worried about it being worth it? It’s only £4.99/$6.99, or wait for it to go on sale. I’d definitely add it to your collection. You might find yourself itching to do one more run, one more run, one more run….

TL;dr – The Dungeoning is a very stereotypical RPG rogue-like platformer with perma-death, but don’t be fooled- you’ll be just as addicted as any other game with more bells and whistles.

Rating 7/10

Purchase – Steam £4.99/$6.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Convoy

Convoy is a squad based, tactical combat roguelike-like from the small team at Convoy Games. Development originally started in 2013, saw a successful Kickstarter campaign towards the back end of 2014 and is arriving on Steam today for £9.99 or your regional equivalent. Let’s take a look.

The goal of Convoy is to find various spare parts required to repair your broken ship. They are scattered throughout a dynamic world, filled with random encounters and events, and it’s your task to safely make your way through and complete your objective. To help achieve this you have a convoy of vehicles at your command, and it’s through them that you will complete the task at hand.

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Your Convoy consists of a main vehicle, MCV (Main Convoy Vehicle), and a number of supporting units. You only get one MCV, and you need to make sure it doesn’t die or it’s game over: I’ll touch on this a little later. Supporting units however can be picked up throughput the game as you build up a bad-ass convoy, capable of surviving the harsh world around you.

The vehicles in your convoy can be upgraded, with better weapons and stat upgrades available from the various camps found scattered throughout the world. These can be found on the game map, where the majority of gameplay takes place. Through interacting with, and taking part in, the random events you’ll encounter whilst travelling you unlock bolts and loot. Bolts are the game’s currency and will be used to purchase your upgrades.

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The game map is where the bulk of the decisions are made, and your game’s direction is decided. Here you move your convoy around the map, manage your objectives and can see information on your cargo, currency and fuel. When moving around the map you will run into random events that prompts a text dialog in which you have to choose how to respond to the situation. These text-based interactions have multiple outcomes, and your choices in them are crucial.

Respond to a passing convey incorrectly and they’ll spin-around and fire at your ass. Each encounter can lead to a beat-down, and given they are random you are constantly on edge. You also don’t have the ability to view the map without moving to that location, there no free-view. If you want to explorer an area you have to go there and play to hell you don’t run into anything that could overwhelm you.

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The other major component to convoy is the vehicle fights. If negotiations with an enemy fall short, or you’re just in the mood for a fight, you move away from the map, and get right down into the action. With direct control over each vehicle in your convoy, you have to fight off the attacking enemies. This is a nice system, and adds some real action to the generally decision-based gameplay, but is not without its flaws.

Your main MCV is centred, with your supporting units surrounding. Enemies approach from all sides, and you have to fend them off while keeping your MCV alive. You can move each vehicle individually, and they move in a very nice, smooth way to the target location over a period of time. There is a tutorial available that shows how to use this system, and in there the smooth movement of your units feels great. In the fast-pace of combat however I thought it felt sloppy and unresponsive at times. Sometime you want to get your unit out of the way fast, or to the other side of your MCV in a hurry and often that doesn’t happen and you find yourself waiting for the unit to gradually move into position.

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In these fight scenes you are driving constantly to the east, and various obstacles come at you which you have to avoid such as terrain. If you don’t get out the way in time your unit is instantly destroyed, and it’s in these situation where the slower movement really becomes apparent. Sometime you just can’t get out of the way and it makes the death feel a little … unfair.

There is a tactical mode available when in combat that allows you to pause the action, whilst still being able to command your units. This gives you some breathing room when things get a little manic and you need a moment to strategize.

Convoy isn’t a forgiving game. With a death resulting in the end of your game, and resources such as gas been precious, you have to plan each move carefully and think about all possible repercussions. I get why this is fun, and it does put you on edge at all times knowing failure is a wrong answer away, but I feel it’s a bit too much. I feel it’s at a point where it’s to its own detriment and it gets in the way of some gamplay.

With gas been a precious resource, and the fact that random encounters happen often, I felt like exploration was too risky to enjoy. There is a whole world around you but it’s just too dangerous to head into it and see what’s going on. You have to stick to the objectives and get the job done. You can’t view the map without moving your convoy, so you have to just wander aimlessly. If the game promoted exploration then this would be fine, but it doesn’t; you seem to be punished for exploring.

I think the risk vs reward is off. For example, you see a mission so head over there. It takes you a short distance away from the nearest camp. You end up in a fight which you couldn’t avoid. Afterwards you try to head back to camp to repair, but end up in another unavoidable fight and that’s game over. You can’t afford to take chances and explore, which for me is where the fun would lie in this. It’s incredibly punishing, and that was on the easiest difficulty!

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I see what convoy is, and I understand why it’s punishing as it wants your decisions to be calculated and deliberate, but I felt the risk vs reward and heavy punishment gets in the way.

On my first attempt, on easy, I died within 10 minutes. A couple more runs and I started to understand that exploring and taking risks seems to be the wrong way to play, but for me that’s the fun way to play. In order to stay alive for any amount of time I had to play so conservatively that I wasn’t having much fun. More just making sure I was making the right moves.

What it wants to do, it does well. So if you’re a fan of this genre you’ll most certainly enjoy the challenge. For me however, it was a bit too much and made me feel too restricted.

Tl:dr – Convoy is a punishing roguelike-like strategy game where each move has to be calculated and deliberate or it will most probably lead to your downfall. What it wants to do it does well, so existing fans of the genre will relish the challenge. For me, I found the punishing gameplay forced me to play conservatively and restricted what I wanted to do.
Rating – 6.8/10
Purchase – Steam £9.99 or your regional equivalent