Capsule Review: Xeodrifter

A 2D retro-styled Metroid homage. Your spaceship is damaged and you must explore areas on four planets to repair it. Along the way, you navigate levels, defeat enemies, and acquire new abilities. The game seems to be trying pretty hard to set a specific mood to make the player feel like a lonely, vulnerable human exploring an unknown and hostile world - there’s no instruction on where to go in what order and (at least early on) the enemies tend to need a lot of hits to take down while the player character doesn’t.

But the way the mechanics interact means this can backfire. Technically you can go to any planet at any time, but many paths are gated by requiring abilities that you may not have yet - so you’re not really exploring; you’re playing a mostly-linear game that’s just really bad at showing its path, meaning that you can easily waste your time by guessing wrong and finding a dead end. Enemy encounters are grueling and require the player to become skilled at dealing with them - but the rare health drops and very sparse checkpoints mean death is common and its punishment requires replaying a lot of the level, wasting your time going through all that grueling combat again to get back to where you were and practice what you were doing.

At least to me, the overall effect isn’t the feeling of being a tiny explorer in a dangerous universe - it’s the strong sense that the game doesn’t respect my time. As a busy adult in a world with more excellent games than time to play them, that’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I really wanted to like this game, but I put it down in frustration pretty quickly, saving my time for games that make better use of it.

I Stopped Playing When: After apparently guessing wrong and going to a planet where I didn’t have the needed ability to progress, I found the right planet and muddled through to the first boss, where I died many times because two of its telegraphs for very different moves were too similar. It became clear that to continue any further would be to ask for my time to be wasted.

Docprof's Rating:

One Star: Not for me. While there might be someone out there who'd enjoy this game, I was actively repulsed by it or just found nothing to latch on to.

You can get it or learn more here.