“In space, no one can hear you scream.” The marketing tagline behind 1979’s Alien bears no direct relation to Renegade Kid’s Xeodrifter. But, I’d like to think that someone out there had caught the unheard 8-bit expletives sworn by the game’s interstellar drifter when a rogue asteroid strikes his ship.
Caught adrift and with the ship’s warp core immeasurably damaged, we somewhat conveniently find ourselves positioned between four nearby planets in the Omega sector. With a scan detecting that the materials required to repair the ship are situated on each, the impulse engines provide enough momentum to allow you to explore their undiscovered landscapes.
And so begins your adventure in Xeodrifter, as you perilously step on to your ship’s telepad and beam down to the surface. Star Trek taught us that red-uniformed security officers and engineers would inevitably face certain death, but such rules need not apply to Renegade Kid’s lone nomad.
It’s a nervous start as you bound your way through treacherous terrain, being wary enough not to deplete your three-hit health bar and be met with an early demise. Neutralising fairly unobtrusive creatures along the way, the pursuit of the bleeping energy source nearby eventually sees you come visor-to-face with the first ancient guardian that you are required to defeat.
This early encounter isn’t a particularly daunting one, jumping to dodge a rampant charge and ducking under your adversary when it leaps over you. But once defeated, players unlock the first of several powers that the developer describes as having stemmed from a “legendary supreme culture.”
It’s at this point that, in having rid the galaxy of the first guardian, you unlock the Submarine power. This lets you submerge indefinitely in water, with subsequent powers working together to similarly help open up new routes that will allow you to explore each planet’s depths.
Run ramps up your speed so that you can gallop across a hazardous pink substance, Rocket lets you soar skyward, Solar Flare will let you destroy certain obstacles, and Phaze sees your meandering spaceman able to shift forward in the direction that they are facing. Meanwhile, Plane Shift lets you leap between the game’s foreground and background in certain sections, and will be familiar to those that have blasted through Renegade Kid’s Mutant Mudds.
It’s as Metroidvania as it gets, but as it all begins to come together the credits roll and Renegade Kid say ‘Thanks for playing!’. However, Xeodrifter‘s short playtime is only one concern, with the bosses that you face simply being rehashed several times over with another method of attack added each time that they are encountered. These instances soon begin to feel increasingly insurmountable, building to a point of frustration that began to negate my enjoyment of the game’s explorative design.
And while the visuals in Xeodrifter are a vibrant concoction of colour, recycled assets see each of the game’s four worlds looking and feeling largely dissimilar from one another. It’s an inevitable shame, as beneath the hood there’s clear potential that never becomes realised.
That can be seen in a weapon system that, rather than see you armed with multiple guns, remarkably allows the player to use upgrade points as they wish. Whether that be in increasing the rate of fire, widening the each shot’s spread, or increasing the damage that it deals, this allows the game’s gunplay to be catered to individual tastes.
But on the whole, Xeodrifter simply feels like an incomplete adventure. Beaten in just four hours, the conclusion is as unsatisfying as the content. Although, I hope that Renegade Kid realise their missed opportunities and return to the stars to deliver a more grandiose sequel.