Xeodrifter is an indie game that is heavily inspired by games like Metroid. The game has been available for quite some time on several platforms but now, it has been ported to the Nintendo Switch.
You play as an astronaut whose ship has been hit by an asteroid, which damages it and leaves you stranded in space. Your ship barely has enough energy left to travel to four nearby planets, each containing maze-like areas. At the start of the game, you quickly realize that some parts of the areas are not easy to traverse, making you hop between the four planets in order to find items that will help you progress. This is where the Metroid inspiration is most clear. You run and gun through 2D levels, come across an obstacle that stops you from progressing and then backtrack to previously explored areas, looking for items that give you new abilities or increase your health and gun stats. You don’t need every upgrade to finish the game, but they do make it easier.
The abilities you’ll receive are pretty well designed. They make traversing levels easier and change the gameplay a little bit in their own unique way. The most fun ability to use is the phase-shift. This makes you able to shift between levels in the fore- and background. It can also be used at any time, so you have to keep an eye out for platforms in the background or you might miss some. Some of the other abilities alter the way your gun shoots. You can equip it with homing bullets or give it more firepower. The different types of guns and movement abilities tailor progression to the player and also rewards adapting the way you play the game.
While it’s certainly fun to find all the different types of upgrades and abilities, obtaining these is not always that pleasant. This is most obvious at the start of the game, where your character is weak and dies too easy. Fighting the first boss is therefore incredibly frustrating, as it’s simply overpowered and requires some factor of luck to defeat it. But once you do, the game starts to get little fairer each time you collect an upgrade. But that’s not the only problem this game has. The biggest issue I’ve had with it is its length. Not only because completing the game takes less than four hours, but also because half of the time was spent on backtracking and looking for things I might have missed. I know that this is what makes Metroid-like games their own thing, but having to spend half of my gameplay time on backtracking is just lazy game design. It also doesn’t help that the enemy variety is not that great either. Fighting the same boss multiple times is normal in this game. Sure, they have a different color or are in a different area, but their attack patterns are exactly the same. If I had to summarize Xeodrifter in one word, it would be ‘repetitive’.
Xeodrifter can be fun to play at times, but it can also be frustrating, due to its repetitive design and overpowered enemies at the start of the game. The different types of abilities give you enough variety to keep playing, but the amount of backtracking you have to do to collect them is simply too much. If you’re a fan of Metroid-like games, you might want to try this one, although I’m sure there are much better titles available in the eShop.