Nintendo Switch’s New 2D Side-Scrollers: Xeodrifter and Owlboy

BY DEAN MOSES

Games: Xeodrifter and Owlboy
Rating: E for Everyone (Owlboy’s Rating is Everyone over 10)
Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Cost: Owlboy $24.99, Xeodrifter $9.99 or Xeodrifter Special Edition $14.99

This issue we are bringing you two reviews for the Nintendo Switch. Both are 2D side-scrolling platformers, both employ a retro style, and both could not be more different.

Xeodrifter

After its initial release on the Nintendo 3DS and Windows back in 2014, Xeodrifter has now made its way to the Switch, so players can enjoy the fun both on the go and on a larger screen in their living room. Developer Renegade Kid has faithfully recreated a title that would not look out of place on the original Nintendo Entertainment System during the 80’s. Fans of 8-bit classics like the original Mario and Contra will feel right at home here in this universe. And although the game seeks to adopt a vintage appearance, the graphics are still brought up-to-date through the use of vibrant colors that pop from the Switch’s screen and lavish background design, which become gameplay elements later on in the experience. But before we fully understand the visuals, we must first understand why our hero is here.

The astronaut we take control of is minding his own business, piloting his rocket ship through space when it collides with an asteroid, rendering it unable to continue its voyage. Luckily there are four planets nearby our little astronaut can descend to in hopes of making repairs on his ship. These planets can be visited in any order, however, to progress you will need to hop between worlds after gaining upgraded abilities, such as the submarine. Once you can dive into the water for instance, you will need to fly to an adjacent planet to find the next upgrade. This back and forth form of exploration is known as Metroidvania (named using the amalgamation of two timeless titles: Castlevania and Metroid) a sub-genre of 2D side-scrollers.

It can be difficult to determine which planet needs to be visited and will most likely leave you traveling to each one until you hit the correct location. Talking of difficultly, Xeodrifter can become quite hard to those not familiar with this genre of game. The action is fast paced and unforgiving. Our little astronaut rushes through the stages à la Super Meat Boy. A few missteps and you will be returned to the beginning of the stage, and this will happen—a lot.

Conclusion

Xeodrifter is a true blast from the past in all senses of the term. Fans of retro gaming will love the unforgiving, fast gameplay style while new players may feel isolated by the difficulty spike and classic visuals. Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on, there is still fun to be had on this rather cheap pickup.

Our next review is of a much-anticipated title that—after a long deployment process—has finally made it to the Nintendo Switch.

Owlboy

This is again a 2D side-scroller. However, one of the first things players will notice is how beautiful this game looks, in fact it is the most aesthetically pleasing game I have seen in this genre in recent memory. But before we get into how good this game truly looks, let’s begin with the story.

Where Xeodrifter had very little narrative, Owlboy tells a vast, emotional story with written dialogue. We follow Otus, a young boy incapable of speech as he learns the ways of his people, owl-human hybrids. Otus learns to fly, jump, and pick up objects, and in turn, the player grasps the game’s controls. The young boy does not have an easy life, he often fails at these lessons and the villagers shame him for his failures. That is until a band of sky pirates attacks his home—a series of floating platforms on which his village is based—and Otus and his friend become unlikely heroes when they are forced to defend their turf.

The landscape is rendered in gorgeous 2D detail. Bushes rustle in the wind; the sprites burst with emotions and react appropriately to the action. Not only that, the light transforms as you progress with vivid golden hues and the gloom of night. The background is peppered with lush clouds and rocky backdrops. You can feel the love developer D-pad Studio put into creating a multilayered, enjoyable experience, which goes the same for the gameplay. Owlboy has a variety of abilities at his disposal. He can fly while holding an object to either eat and restore health or hurl at an enemy or obstacle. He can also clutch an ally who can shoot enemies for Owlboy. New skills can also be unlocked with continued play.

Conclusion

Owlboy could well be the best 2D game currently on the Switch: fun gameplay, engaging plot, lovingly created world, and fascinating characters all come together to create an incredible adventure. And if you are a fan of physical games instead of downloads, Owlboy will be hitting stores shelves on May 29th. If you are looking for a 2D title, you won’t be disappointed here.