Renegade Kid was one of the first indie teams to jump on the chance to support the Nintendo eShop on the 3DS, and has remained consistent ever since the service launched in 2011. Its most notable games include Mutant Mudds, one of the highest-rated eShop games to date; and Moon Chronicles, currently the only first-person shooter on the handheld.
The team’s latest release – Xeodrifter – is easily its best since Mutant Mudds helped kick off the initial eShop launch.
Combining the decidedly nostalgic blend of 8- and 16-bit presentation from Mutant Mudds with the game design styles of Castlevania and Metroid, this 2D platformer ultimately provides an excellent bite-sized romp for anyone craving “Metroidvania” on the 3DS or PC (via Steam). It stays true to the fundamentals and simultaneously dabbles with a few newer ideas.
For example, the focus is set on navigating and exploring – and the nameless space marine hero eventually finds new equipment. Although it starts with simple jumping and pellet-gun shooting, Xeodrifter opens up when you find some of the hidden power-ups and additional gear – just like Metroid and Castlevania games.
While it feels very much based on old-school design, Xeodrifter also implements ideas like phasing between the foreground and background, and it uses a much less punishing form of checkpoints and re-spawns than the games that inspired it. Also, rather than equipping different beam weapons, your weapon can be customized in all kinds of ways – you can increase the rate of fire, add a spiraling or burst effect, increase the damage, and more. You can even mix and match the weapon power-ups and create three gun load-outs, which can be switched out on the bottom screen.
One of the things I really liked about the game; it doesn’t really start you out with much information – in fact, the only way you really learn which planet to go to is by paying attention to the visual details on the screen. This kind of simple progression doesn’t hold your hand and instead encourages you to explore and think of what to do, rather than mindlessly moving forward. It also boosts the sense of reward when you manage to track down the health & gun power-ups.
There are some drawbacks to the game, the first of which is the repeated boss characters – these giant monsters are all pretty tough, but each subsequent boss battle feels too much like the last one. Although the creatures pick up a few new techniques and patterns, it hardly difficult to figure them out before they become too much of a hassle – especially with the generously-located checkpoints outside each boss room.
Xeodrifter may not be a long game, but it offers excellence in a very efficient and bite-sized portion. Although it left me wanting a bit more, it also didn’t leave me disappointed or bored with a bunch of arbitrary “filler” to trudge through.