Xeodrifter, from Renegade Kid, was released on the Nintendo 3DS in late 2014. Like their previous game, Mutant Mudds, you can switch between the foreground and the background to accomplish your goal at the end of each level. In Xeodrifter there is a greater emphasis on switching to the background, when allowed, to quickly travel past obstacles and enemies alike to traverse the planets. This is where the similarities end.
Xeodrifter begins with the main protagonist flying his ship through space when an unknown object collides with the ship, destroying the warp core. After scanning the nearby planets for a possible new core, the player must explore the 4 planets armed only with a gun, and discover what's being picked up by the scanner. The ship can still propel itself around space though and this is where the journey begins.
Choosing from 1 of the 4 planets quickly reveals the Metroid inspired level design. Each planet has a way of deterring progress such as: stretches of pink lava, large enemies that shoot extremely powerful energy beams, and areas of water that require a submarine to move through. Once the player has navigated to the correct starting planet, it's simple to follow the map to the first boss fight. Defeating him will net our hero an upgrade, the first upgrade being the submarine. From here exploration becomes pretty fun as each planet slowly opens up as each new upgrade is obtained.
Backtracking is a staple of Metroid inspired games, but in Xeodrifter there's not much to explore, and with a small amount of investigation of the planets, it's quickly apparent which upgrade is needed making exploration a lot more linear. This linearity makes traversing a planet stop nearly immediately from the moment you dock because you don't have the right upgrade. This normally wouldn't be a problem, but you have to manually fly to a planet, land and discover you can't progress, and then have to return to your ship and repeat.
The planets themselves are beautiful in their designs, with few similarities between the 4 of them. From watery blues and pink tilesets to cracked rocks with lava flowing from them, there's a lot of pretty details to take in. Most enemies are common on all of the planets, ranging from slug like creatures to giant boulders that shoot large beams of energy. Each planet has its own music that matches really nicely to the landscapes. The songs each add a subtle touch of mystery when exploring different areas and never get old. The soundtrack is definitely a perfect fit for the environments the hero finds himself in.
The biggest hurdle to exploring is that there are very few ways to replenish your health once you're already on a planet. There are hidden health orbs inside tiles of the level, but these are not obvious enough to see right away. The only other alternative is farming for health orbs from a unique enemy found only outside a boss door. This paired with no quick traveling back to your ship means having to carefully monitor your health, especially after a boss fight as there is no way to restore health. If you were to die after a boss fight, it's game over and you'll restart from your ship, resulting in having to collect any upgrade that may have been obtained as well as fighting the boss again.
One thing that changes up the gameplay is in the gun upgrades. There are 5 different ways your gun can shoot: from faster bullets, to bullets that are larger and move slower but do more damage, to a wave shot. Each time a gun upgrade is found you can increase the effectiveness of a certain style by one. Every two upgrades make it more noticeably effective. The player is also not confined to just one style as each of the 5 can be selected and deselected at any time. The player can also save 3 different combinations of gun upgrades to choose between at any time.
After tracking down all of the upgrades and using them in a mad dash to the final boss encounter, the game really shows what it could have been. While not being too difficult it was still the most challenging part of the game. Upon defeating the boss for the last time, our hero finds a new warp core and he is finally able to go home. The credits roll and some fitting music plays.
Xeodrifter is an ambitious game that unfortunately can fall flat due to level designs and that you have to fight the same boss the entire game. The game is also quite short - even taking my time it only took three and a half hours to beat. Nothing unlocks after you beat the game either. No new game+ or harder game options. So replaying a completed game is only to find any missed health or gun upgrades. This was honestly off putting as it left nearly no incentive to return once I beat the game.
Ten dollars may not be a steep price tag, but all the negatives quickly become obvious and even though I enjoyed my three hours with it, I did not feel like it was worth the money. If there had been a harder difficulty to choose from after completion, maybe a music player to listen to the soundtrack, or even just different bosses I could see this as being a great recommendation. Unfortunately, it can only be recommended to those who are really craving a 2D Metroid-like game that have exhausted every other option first.