The bad news: we haven't seen a Metroid game in almost five years, and that's not looking to change any time soon. The good news: Xeodrifter, which came out earlier this month for PC and 3DS, is a fine enough substitute. Well, it's an OK substitute. A decent enough substitute. It's margarine, basically. It's I Can't Believe It's Not Metroid.
I bought Xeodrifter to play on my 3DS while on vacation last week, and I blew through it over a couple of days, clocking in a final time of two hours, 35 minutes. It was.. satisfying, in the way that only those Metroid-like shooter-platformer hybrids can be, as you keep running and running on the treadmill of progress in hopes of unlocking increasingly cool weapons and abilities, knowing that every insurmountable obstacle actually marks a New Thing that you'll need to find, acquire, and master. I do wish there had been more, as Xeodrifter is too constrained to escape Super Metroid's shadow — and, sadly, it comes to a finish just as you're starting to grow fond of your special powers — but this a fun, challenging game that will at least temporarily satiate any big Metroid fan.
Here are some other things you should know about Xeodrifter:
1) It is very much like Super Metroid in that you have A) a spaceship; B) a gun; C) no clear directive other than to explore planets and shoot aliens. This is a good thing. If you grew up with the adventures of Samus Aran, playing Xeodrifter will feel familiar, like slipping into an old spaceship.
2) You fight seven different bosses over the course of the game. This is a lie. You actually fight the same boss seven different times, a big hamster-squid-looking alien that learns one new ability every time you take him on, but changes in nothing but colour as you blast through the game. If you like games with boss variety, look elsewhere. Shadow of the Colossus this is not.
3) There is plenty of variety, however, in the new abilities you get from each boss, and all of them are cool, particularly a dimension-swapping device that lets you hop between a stage's background and foreground, as is necessary to get past some obstacles and find some hidden health boosts.
4) This game is very, very punishing. The only save points are at your ship and before each boss battle, meaning if you die during a level you'll be sent all the way back to your ship and forced to replay parts you just did. The gamer in me enjoyed the challenge while the sceptical game critic wondered if the folks behind Xeodrifter — a talented development team called Renegade Kid — were trying to artificially inflate the game's length. Either way, if you want to play the game, you'll have to suck it up.
So is Xeodrifter worth your time? If you're a Metroid addict who's played every Metroidvania from here to eternity and is looking for a new fix, absolutely. If you're not as experienced with the genre, go play Super Metroid or Cave Story instead.