Xeodrifter, originally developed by Renegade Kid before being acquired by Atooi Games after Renegade Kid split in to two separate companies, is one of the rare games I’ve owned and enjoyed playing on multiple consoles. Five, to be exact. Aside from a handful of first party Nintendo games, I can’t think of any games I’ve been happy to own and play on this many different platforms. With that much experience on that many platforms, I think it says a great deal about the Nintendo Switch version when I say it’s the definitive version of the game, and easily my favourite place to experience this awesome little Metroidvania space adventure. If you know what the game is about, stop reading right now and go pick it up. If you’re unfamiliar, let’s go!
Xeodrifter starts as your space ship collides with an asteroid, which damages the ship’s warp drive system. After the initial short cut scene, you’re put in control of the ship and given a simple choice of four planets to explore. In true retro fashion, there’s no hand holding here, and no glowing beacon pointing you in the right direction. This lack of direction or guidance may be jarring to some, but it certainly sells the fact that our hero is lost in space and alone. As you touch down on your first planet, you simply have to choose a direction and stick with it until you can’t move any further. Early road blocks hint at an upgrade system similar to Metroid games, where you learn new abilities as you progress, which help you progress further in the game and reach places you couldn’t before. Each new upgrade in Xeodrifter feels significant. Whether it’s finding a health or weapon upgrade, which are scattered throughout each planet, or a major ability upgrade, which you collect by defeating the bosses in each stage, everything has a purpose. Weapon upgrades are my personal favourite, allowing you to configure your blaster based on personal preference or the challenge you’re facing at the time. I tend to go for faster shooting and a bigger bullet size, but I really enjoy the flexibility, especially in some later sections of the game. You’re also able to set three configurations in the menu, allowing you to have a few weapon variations to quickly flip between instead of adjusting each node every time you want to change it up a little.
Like I mentioned above, each upgrade feels significant. Boss battles are TOUGH, so when you receive a new ability, it really feels like you earned it. The game paces these battles and upgrades out wonderfully, and I never hit a point where I was too frustrated to trace my steps back and figure out where I had to go next, unlike some Metroidvania games. Let’s face it, if you put Samus Returns down for a few days, you may need a guide to figure out where to go next. In Xeodrifter, each of the four planets is small enough to run through in a few minutes, and your next path will become evident pretty quickly. The game is over in a few hours, but the length feels perfect for the experience. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, or drag things out too much. There’s no unnecessary padding, and that’s a good thing.
As far as what makes the Switch version so special, the game just looks and plays amazingly well on the hardware. Whether in handheld or TV mode, the pixel art pops! Throw in some seriously impressive HD Rumble (seriously… WOW!) and you’ve got a package that deserves to be part of any Switch library. The HD rumble is so good that I had an issue playing the game how I wanted to. This isn’t a knock against the game itself, but I find the D-Pad on the Switch Pro controller a bit lacking, so I prefer to play my retro games with an 8Bitdo SNES 30 for the full retro effect. The problem is that controller doesn’t have HD Rumble or rumble of any sort, and the HD Rumble honestly adds so much to the experience that I found myself preferring a sub-par d-pad experience instead of missing out on feeling how much work went in to this port.
The Switch sometimes feels like a port machine. That can be good or bad, depending on your gaming history, but if every port was treated with as much love as Xeodrifter, the Switch wouldn’t be so much a port machine as a place to play the definitive, best versions of any game you can throw at it. Add Xeodrifter to your collection today.
9 out of 10