Keeping in touch with your roots is part of any culture. For the gaming industry, the retro scene is just that. Renegade Kid keeps to those origins with Xeodrifter, a side-scroller ported over from the PC and Nintendo 3DS. Developer Renegade Kid brings inspirations from the likes of Mega Man and Metroid and puts those concepts into Xeodrifter, an ambitious title with large shoes to fill.
After being struck by an asteroid, the warp core on your ship fails, and you find yourself isolated in a small area of space between four very different planets. From here, the premise of the game, in words, is simple: Explore the four worlds in order to repair your ship and get back on your original course. Navigational controls are simple as well, as nothing is too standout-ish or convoluted in any way.
The look and feel of the game is a throwback to an older time, and fans of the retro style will fall right into it. The pixelated style works well on both the PS4 and PS Vita (and the same goes for Xeodrifter’s overall performance), and the robotic musical score is very relaxing, which helps ease the trial-and-error old-school gameplay.
Much like most retro games, the tutorial is the game itself with progression requiring a trial and error approach.. There’s nothing in Xeodrifter that says “This is this and that is that,” but the beauty of retro games is that they explain themselves without needing instruction. Bosses here follow distinct attack patterns, and each preceding boss proves more challenging than the next with more attacks and schemes. Generally, the bosses look exactly the same, but the aesthetic limitations are compensated really well by the rising difficulty with each one. In contrast, each world has its own variations of enemies, which differ not only in aesthetic but in attack patterns as well.
Upgrades can be obtained in different ways. Both health and gun upgrades are intravenously hidden throughout the four different worlds in such a way that unlocking each new ability allows for you further exploration of each world in order to find more. The abilities themselves are only obtained from boss fights, but each ability (Run, Submarine, etc) opens up the four worlds in different ways. Having this necessary approach makes the game quite engaging without making things too complicated, as the exploration itself is the real challenge of the game.
While there’s only one gun, collected gun upgrades can level different attacking methods. From attack speed and attack pattern to attack damage, the gun boasts various attributes. For instance, bullets can be shot in a wavelength pattern or even in a cone while increasing the attack speed or damage. This is only limited by how many points you’ve collected. These points can also be pulled from one leveling tree and put into others, and Xeodrifter also provides three possible loadouts for laying out these points in preloaded ways for particular circumstances (even though I never really spent a lot of time messing with the loadouts).
Apart from an old-fashion learning curve and a healthy dose of exploration, Xeodrifter doesn’t do much incorrectly. The game has a nice, generous pace and solid, old-school gameplay. etro sights and sounds also work in tandem to create a welcoming, yet challenging, ambiance that leaves Xeodrifter with a decadent feeling of success. There’s not much replay value outside of collectibles, and consequently it’s over rather quickly. Nonetheless, the price is on point, and as part of next month’s free PlayStation Plus titles, Xeodrifter will certainly be hard to ignore. The difficulty may deter a few people, but Renegade Kid has concocted a representation of the old with accents of the new with Xeodrifter.