Tag Archives: PS4

Xeodrifter Review

Quality Metroid clones don’t come around everyday and Xeodrifter, even for it’s flaws, is one of the most fun I’ve experienced. For some the 10 dollar price tag and relatively short 3-4 hours worth of gameplay might be off putting, but Xeodrifter provides an unoriginal, but enjoyable few hours of exploring various alien worlds while it lasts.

Xeodrifter is light on story and that’s okay. Our hero’s ship gets damaged during flight and it’s up to the player to help them recover their ships lost hyper drive. Simple enough, but the challenge comes from exploring the nearby planets, fending off each one’s fauna, and collecting many power-ups and abilities along the way. It doesn’t get more Metroid esque then that, but that’s where the majority of the similarities stop and Xeodrifter offers up a few of it’s own original ideas.

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Xeodrifter’s ace in the hole is it’s customizable weapon loadouts. While checking each nook and cranny along your adventure, players are sure to stumble upon a few weapon power-up nodes. These can be used on the inventory/map screen to customize the fire pattern, speed, and power of your main weapon. This system really isn’t that deep as you only have one weapon to actually upgrade throughout the entire game and most players will quickly come to find out that simply upgrading power and rate of fire is easily the best choice for any situation. Still, it’s fun to mess around with and the ability to save up to three different loadouts is a nice touch. I do want to give the designers credit for designing the weapon power-ups in such a way as the player does feel truly empowered throughout the game if they search high and low for most or all of the upgrades.

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This is important due to Xenodrifter being difficult in the beginning stages. Probably too difficult actually. Enemies don’t do a ton of damage, but with such a low life pool starting out and very few opportunities to refill during stages, most players will die a few times starting out. I appreciate the concept of making the player feel somewhat helpless. Enemies and platforming are not particularly challenging, but I wasted a lot of time within the first hour of playing simply losing all of my progress and restarting the level due to either a couple of mistakes or not knowing what to expect around the next corner. This will turn some players away and I can’t blame them.

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Xeodrifter’s four different planets are a cool idea on paper. Each is vibrant accompanied with unique assets and color schemes, but it turns out that exploring isn’t quite as exciting as it should be. Creative level and enemy design is severally lacking. Most rooms aren’t even rooms, but linear horizontal or vertical hallways. Poorly designed map layouts force players to retread old ground for new power-up, but unlike well designed exploration based games, shortcuts aren’t sprinkled throughout each area. Backtracking is part of the genre, but never make the player navigate back through a level multiple times the exact same way. In theory the developers probably thought dividing the world up into four different, smaller areas would alleviate the need, but it isn’t fun or interesting to navigate a level and then immediately have to retrace the exact same steps in reverse just to go to another level. You’ll be doing this a lot in Xenodrifter and that’s a shame, especially for a game this short.

Status Screen

That all aside, Xeodrifter does have it’s merits. Gameplay is quick and frenetic throughout, more akin to Mega Man then Metroid. This helps exploration feel more engaging as it’s fun to zip around levels as fast as possible and many of the new abilities earned, such as a rocket jump and speed dash, help somewhat alleviate the poor level design and unlock new areas and power boosts. One of the more interesting abilities allows for players to jump in and out of certain background layers. Some of the more dastardly areas of the game will have the player taxed to speed across treacherous terrain while simultaneously hopping from background to foreground at a moments notice. It’s a novel idea that the developers of Xeodrifter first implemented in an earlier title, Mutant Mudds.

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Early game difficulty and poor map design hold Xeodrifter back from being a top-tier 2D adventure game. These issues aside, I still had a fun first playthrough. I even found myself oddly drawn toward going for 100% completion afterwards. So why is that? It comes down to the polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay combined with great empowerment of the player character as you explore each planet discovering that previously dangerous foes now kneel to your power. I’ll even defend the games recycled bosses as I found it interesting to see what new attacks I’d have to deal with in the next encounter. Xeodrifter may not be a must play at the full retail price of $10, but if you are looking to fill the void until Metroid: Samus Returns for an afternoon or a good sale comes around, you could do a lot worse.

+Polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay
+Great player empowerment
+Short gameplay time might appeal to some players
-Uninspired level design, too much forced backtracking
-Difficulty not well balanced toward the beginning
-Only 3-4 hours of gameplay

Game: Xeodrifter
Release Date: Decemeber 11th, 2014
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Steam
Developer and Publisher: Renegade Kid

Blasphemous – Kickstarter Spotlight

This week I wanted to highlight an interesting non-linear action platformer called Blasphemous that is nearing the end of it’s Kickstarter campaign and is worthy of the attention of any Metroidvania fan. One look at the pixel art and smooth animation is enough to get any fan of the genre on board with what this dark and grisly title has to offer.

Blasphemous Gameplay

Fast-paced, skilled combat and a deep and evocative narrative are the central focus of the player experience. While we don’t have a ton of narrative to go off of, its more then apparent from environmental aesthetics to character designs that players are in for dark, creepy, and truly unsettling adventure. The pixel art design and animation of enemies is phenomenal and the creative team, The Game Kitchen, deserves a lot of credit for putting such imagination, passion and talent toward creating some of the most unique enemy designs in gaming.

Blasphemous Enemy Design Example

Environmental design is also top notch. From dark dungeons, to deserts, to apocalyptic wastelands no area looks the same, but most importantly interesting and detailed. The developers even claim that environmental hazards can be used against your enemies. A pretty cool addition that could help  keep combat fresh throughout the course of a playthrough. While combat basically boils down to fast paced dodging, hack-n-slash action, players will be able to acquire various beads that can be used to customize playstyle. Not much is known about these, but creating unique beads that impart new special moves or sub-weapons would  be engrossing.

Overall there isn’t much to not like here. There are only 5 days left in the campaign and The Game Kitchen has already more then quadrupled their $50,000 dollar goal. Quite a few stretch goals have been met and if you are interested in supporting this game, team, or simply further development of metroidvania style games, then I highly advise you to check out the Kickstarter page and pledge if you are so inclined. I for one am going to back this project as I can’t help but stare in amazement at the masterfully done pixel art and quick, visceral gameplay.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/828401966/blasphemous-dark-and-brutal-2d-non-linear-platform/description

Planned platforms for release: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux

 

 

Indivisible Prototype Review

Indivisible Prototype is actually an alpha build of an upcoming, fully funded IndieGoGo campaign for the game Indivisible. Indivisible looks to be a game to keep on our radars as it advertises itself to bring together gameplay elements from Metroid and Valkyrie Profile. An interesting hybrid indeed. One thing to note when looking at the following screenshots is the art style. If you followed the campaign for Skullgirls several years ago, it should come as no surprise that Indivisible’s character designs, while considerably less silly, would fit right at home in that title with it’s gorgeous and large sprites. That’s because the development studio, Lab Zero, is bringing Indivisible to life with a little help from 505 games.

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But an alpha is a showcase of the gameplay and concept and how does Indivisible fair thus far? Surprisingly well actually. While the systems are a bit limited at the moment, I can’t help but see loads of potential in this interesting mash-up.

 

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As the main character Ajna, the player will be be navigating a few small temples as one would in any other 2D platformer, but with the twist of also finding tools/weapons that will allow for further world traversal much like a standard metroidvania title. During my 40 minute play session with the prototype I only ran across an axe, which served not only as a great weapon upgrade, but also as a means to destroy vines and scale walls. This made exploration much more varied, rewarding, and I can just imagine all the clever puzzles the developers could devise to require the player to use multiple tools on the fly.

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Ajna can use these items, as well as her fists, to attack enemies throughout each level, but enemies aren’t thwarted so easily. Think of attacking an enemy as gaining the first strike on an unsuspecting victim. Wack an enemy and watch as Indivisible fluidly morphs from a 2D platformer to a real-time rpg combat scenario. It’s great that gameplay isn’t bogged down by a transitional period.

 

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From here the player must manage each character’s action bars and battle commands. During the prototype, Ajna will gather three companions and each is mapped to one of the four main buttons on a controller. If you want a particular character to attack press their corresponding button. This gives the player the ability to attack with multiple characters at a time for big damage. Combine that with directional inputs that can alter attacks, a party shared stamina gauge that can be used to guard and perform especially powerful moves, and it’s obvious that Lab Zero put a lot of thought into combat. While it starts dreadfully simple, I started to have a lot of fun timing attacks and my defenses against some of the more nasty encounters.

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Indivisible has a lot going for it and I’m hopeful that the gaming community will hear more about it’s development life cycle throughout 2016. The prototype can be downloaded for free on the Playstation 4 andI highly consider it worth a look. Also, check out the IndieGoGo page at:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/indivisible-rpg-from-the-creators-of-skullgirls#/

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