INDIE REVIEW: XEODRIFTER – The Love Child of Mega Man and Metroid rocks the PS4!

This world screams Mega Man 2, y'all ...
This world screams Mega Man 2 …

Mega Man, Metroid, Castlevania–these are names that cause a swelling of love to rise up inside of us, the gamers that grew up during the peak of the NES era.  It should stand to reason, then, that we’d love the current explosion of so-called metroidvania style games that have come out of the indie-game boom; and we do love them … sometimes.  Other times, they’re overly difficult, uninspired, or eschew the modern touches that would actually–dare I say–improve the classic formulas.

That’s why I didn’t try Xeodrifter right away.  After all, for every Axiom Verge, there’s a dozen poorly animated get-hung-up-on-every-ledge platformers overfilling our libraries, and I needed to let my disappointment glands recover before trying another title that may make me miss the old days for the wrong reasons.

You spend a fair amount of time traveling in liquid via a submarine transformation ...
You spend a fair amount of time traveling in liquid via a submarine transformation …

That was a mistake.

I really enjoyed Xeodrifter, and there are some good reasons why: the graphics aren’t at all simple, just low res.  In fact, they’re beautifully crafted, and the four worlds that make up the game each have an atmosphere that is unique, while still fitting solidly into the title’s setting. The music is swell, too, though it’s not something I have to own on vinyl (such as was the case with Hotline Miami‘s OST). The controls are excellent, and I found myself just cruising around the levels like a kid would skip along the sidewalk.

The difficulty isn’t high, but I really enjoyed the boss fights.  Strangely, there is only one boss, but it continually upgrades with each meeting, giving you new powers/actions to contend with.  I encountered a couple of rage-curse moments,

Beating the boss awards you with a new ability, ala the relics in Metroid.
Beating the boss awards you with a new ability, ala the relics in Metroid.

but no rage quits.  There are life and weapon upgrades throughout the game, too, the latter being customize-able (though I found power was all I really needed to augment).

The character, enemy, and boss designs are awesome, the designers forgoing the Contra/Turrican-esque hyper-detailed visuals for something a bit like an alien-inspired Mega Man. The boss design is aggressively cute, almost catlike, and the ultimate deathblow might make you feel a little guilty (but not that guilty).

The only downside about this beautifully crafted title is it’s length; I beat it, secrets aside, in about two hours.  Still, the price is more than worth a purchase, and there’s something really nice about being able to complete a game without cursing your 5-hour play sessions the work day after. The title is also (and originally) available on portable systems, and would be a great train-ride or lunch break getaway. Get it, and

Cute lil boss monster!
Cute lil boss monster!

you aren’t likely to be disappointed.

Graphics: 5/5 – I loved the care given to the animations and pleasing design.

Sound: 4/5 – Almost amazing, but solidly great.

Length: 3/5 – I can’t help but want more, and that’s another compliment.

Worth it: YES.

If you play Xeodrifter and just can’t get enough, check out developer Renegade Kid’s other side-scrolling platformer, the awesome Mutant Mudds.

INDIE REVIEW: Hand of Fate (PS4) – Love Board Games? Love Video Games? Love this game.

The Dealer - Your Frenemy In This Excellent Game ...
The Dealer – Your Frenemy In This Game.

In This Game, The Rule is Board, Not Bored …

Okay, so if you own both a PS3 or PS4 and a PS Vita, you’ve found yourself asking this question: “Hmm, if I buy this PSN game now, will I get it free for Vita when it launches on that platform?”  It’s a game in and of itself, and you’ve got a 50/50 shot of it working in your favor when it comes to indie games.  The big titles, like Dragon’s Crown, aren’t gonna give you that extra platform for free, so you gotta shell out double or live with it on one system or the other.  Smaller and indie titles, though, like Helldivers and Hotline Miami 1 and 2, let you play to your pleasure.

The Camera Is Fixed But Tracks, And It Works ...
The Camera Is Fixed But Tracks, And It Works …

I asked myself the “Hmm . . .” question not too long ago about Defiant Development’s semi-rogue like title Hand of Fate.  I was moving cross country at the time, and hoping to play the card game/action game hybrid on my plane via the Vita.  It seems like the perfect game for the go–it’s stage-based, randomized, and promises simple controls not likely to utilize the complicated back-panel touchpads that caused me so much grief with the Borderlands 2 port (still worth it.)

And then, after it was announced and promised, Defiant CANCELED IT. Cancelled it!  I was irritated, so much so, that I almost didn’t bother to play the PS4 version I’d purchased for $10 via Flash Sale.  But I did, and oh, what an excellent decision that turned out to be.

Cards Act As Events, Many Of Which Can Get You Equipment And Supplies ...
Cards Act As Events, Which Can Net You Equipment And Supplies …

Here’s the gameplay: You choose cards to be part of your deck, cards that are events (like battles or tests of memory or luck) or cards that are weapons or equipment, and then the dealer adds his own. The dealer acts as a narrator in this game, and the voice actor that Defiant chose for him is perfectly epic.  The writing is good, too, and he gives cryptic snippets that add interesting atmosphere to the game world while never repeating himself too much.

Once you’ve made your deck and the dealer’s cards have been added, a random amount are laid out in a random face-down pattern like a game board.  Your character then starts at a predetermined point and must travel one card at a time to reach the way to the next game board, and ultimately the boss card of the round. Each move consumes food, and every card you land on is turned up, putting you through the event of the card.  Event cards in your deck have a token on them, and completing the event in a certain way gives you that one-time token, which grants you even more cards to personalize your deck with.

The Bosses Are Graded Jack, Queen, or King ...
The Bosses Are Graded Jack, Queen, or King …

The graphics are good, though the faux wood-etched card art outshines the WoW-esque character models and arenas, which are still good and serve their purpose.  The sometimes outlandish look of your character’s equipment actually looks cool in relation to the otherwise high-fantasy models, and I always enjoy decking my guy out with the Geordi Laforge-esque visor and a big ol’ hammer.

The events are either choose-your-own-adventure style with a three-card-Monte system, and/or an arena third-person battle setup with randomized enemies.  They all work well, and some games have “Curses” which cause harder three-card-Monte rounds or put on other challenges.

The Graphics Aren't Groundbreaking, But Are Artistically Pleasing ...
The Graphics Aren’t Groundbreaking, But Are Artistically Pleasing …

The game has free-play and endless-play modes, but the main game is a campaign of sorts that has the dealer pitching you in rounds ending with a certain boss card, either a Jack, Queen, or King, and after you beat three, you get a bonus artifact that gives you starting boosts (better starting equipment, blessings that give perks, etc.) There’s a DLC pack for PC’s, too, which more cards, but whether that will hit consoles isn’t clear.

While I was and still am disappointed that Hand of Fate won’t hit the PS Vita, a note from Defiant let me know that the animations alone exceeded the Vita’s memory, so it’s no surprise the port didn’t make it. Regardless, I can honestly say that I’ve had a huge amount of fun with this title.  It’s more like a board game in style than a typical console game, but it’s so no-fuss to play that anyone is gonna have fun jumping into this game.  Wait for a flash sale if you must, but I can’t recommend this title more.  Let’s hope for a sequel, and a real physical board game on top of that!

Grab This Title NOW ...
Grab This Title NOW, It Doesn’t Disappoint …

Sound: 5/5 – The Dealer’s narration alone is a win.

Gameplay: 5/5 – The board game setup, three-card-Monte system, and breadth of event cards makes for a fun time. They even made a fixed tracking camera work well enough.

Story: 5/5 – Well-written and just as detailed as you need works to create a mysterious atmosphere.

Worth It: 5/5 – Buy it, play it, and tell your friends.