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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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