Nearly 3 decades have passed since Metroid and Castlevania were first released, giving rise to an entire sub-genre of games known as Metroidvanias, and it still shows signs of going strong. While the 3D open-world sandbox is certainly growing larger and more prominent among the bigger game developers, indie teams still pump out homages to the non-linear 2D platforming adventurers. There’s still a strong desire for the type of game that encourages and rewards exploration. Of course, in a flooded market there’s also a need for innovative gameplay. Renegade Kid tries to pay respect to the titles with its own mini-Metroid, Xeodrifter. While it’s certainly enjoyable, it doesn’t quite tick off all the boxes.

Taking out enemies can be tedious.

Taking out enemies can be tedious.

The game begins with when a space explorer gets stranded in a 4-planet system without a warp core. Armed with nothing but a pea shooter, they set out in order to find a replacement. Not a particularly long journey, it can be finished in just a few hours. Unfortunately, across the 4 worlds, there’s not much variety – the same dozen or so monsters are present in each area, with a few palette swaps to differentiate them. The monsters present serve little more than obstacles, and it’s hardly worth the time to destroy them, as they don’t drop anything you might use. The only checkpoints come right before bosses, so it’s best to simply run past them or you’ll just have to deal with them all over again if you die.

As expected of a Metroid-like, upgrades are required to fully traverse each world, and each one is protected by a boss. Or perhaps the boss would be better, as there’s only one across the whole game. Yes, the same boss shows up several times, with the only difference being an additional power each time it appears. Instead of simply charging or jumping, it will pound the ground until lava comes out, or spit out miniature clones of itself. While the concept of a boss that evolves over the course of a game is interesting, it tends to remove a lot of the challenge when all of its moves are telegraphed so they can be easily dealt with.

Prepare to have a lot of run-ins with this guy.

Prepare to have a lot of run-ins with this guy.

Lack of enemy variety aside, there are a few neat little upgrades obtained throughout the course of the game.  The submarine allows you to dive into water. The running boost allows you to dash across hot lava.  But the most interesting one gives you the ability to phase from the foreground to the background in order to move past otherwise impenetrable barriers. There are still enemies in the rear map, though, so you’d best go prepared (see the featured image). These abilities will not only be needed to get around in each of the levels, but to deal with the progressively stronger boss.

Other than the new abilities, it’s possible to find health and weapon upgrades. The latter can be used to alter your pea shooter into something more powerful by shooting faster, spreading out the shots, and more. 3 presets can even be created to allow for quick changes depending on a given situation. It’s nice to see this added bit of customization, though its function is slightly questionable given that there are so few enemies that actually need to be taken out rather than avoided. Just remember that the only way to save is to get back to the ship, so you’re upgrades aren’t safe until you return.

Getting around zippity-quick.

Getting around zippity-quick.

KAIJU VERDICT

2/4 Pops: Decent  There might be problems that mount up and prevent it from being a top tier game, or it might not do enough to quite make it stand out, but a 2 can still be an enjoyable experience that the curious should try.

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