I don’t know about you, but I’ve been craving a new side-scrolling Metroid for years now. Whether or not I’ll ever get Samus on my 3DS remains to be seen (and it’s looking increasingly unlikely), but in the meantime, I’m happy to confirm that Renegade Kid’s new 3DS eShop title, Xeodrifter, perfectly fills the void. This 8-bit gem offers a brilliant adventure filled with nonlinear exploration, atmospheric levels, and spot-on gameplay.
Xeodrifter’s story may be non-existent, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In an opening cutscene, the nameless protagonist is flying through space (in his adorable little ship) when he’s suddenly struck by a meteor and loses his ship’s energy core. Stranded in an unknown galaxy, he must traverse its four planets in order to uncover the lost core. The story will not blow you away with strong dialogue or major plot revelations (in fact, there are no text boxes to be found) because Xeodrifter emphasizes gameplay over narrative. Like the original Metroid, Xeodrifter’s story is left cryptic while the aforementioned exploration and atmosphere take center stage.
If only docking a real spaceship were this easy...
You can investigate the four major planets in any order you chose, which results in a perfect combination of exploration and backtracking; no world is too large or too small to handle, and half the fun is deciding which planet you feel adequately equipped to handle at any given moment. In fact, you’ll often find yourself landing on a planet, giving it a try, and then hopping back into your spaceship to tackle an easier planet. The bottom screen conveniently charts your progress throughout the adventure.
Whatever backtracking occurs is handled intelligently through the use of six major powerups. These powerups are inventive, and they usually unlock more direct routes through previously traversed territories. The ability to swap between the foreground and background is especially well implemented and looks beautiful on the 3DS’ stereoscopic display (just as it did in Renegade Kid’s seminal Mutant Mudds). You definitely want to keep the 3D cranked all the way up while you play.
In addition to the powerups, Xeodrifter includes numerous weapon upgrades, which are my favorite part of the game. The simple yet nuanced touch screen interface enables on-the-spot weapon changes; you can allocate your weapon upgrades to five different categories and save up to three weapon configurations to tackle different stages of the game. In fact, the weapon upgrades are handled so well that I wish there were more enemies to fight. There’s only one boss that levels up each time you face off. The boss’ design is great, and it’s enjoyable to test your newly acquired abilities on him, but more varied boss encounters would have been welcome.
This Thwomp had a rough couple of years.
It’s also worth noting that Xeodrifter is a short game – so short, in fact, that you can complete it in under four hours and still achieve nearly 100% completion. Yet, at the same time, every minute is a delight. Personally, I’ll take a short, fun game any day over a lengthy, tedious one.
Overall, Xeodrifter comes highly recommended. It’s a quick adventure, with a wholly original design and atmosphere. From the charming music to the adorable pixel art, Xeodrifter is a lovingly crafted game that pays homage to the original Metroid, while adding in its own distinct charm and unique gameplay mechanics. If you have a few hours to spare this weekend, do yourself a favor and try out this excellent eShop title.
Please note that the final score is not an average