Xenoraid (Switch eShop) Review
Most scrolling shooters have a hook, something that makes the basic concept of shooting things while avoiding being shot and give it some individuality, a reason to keep playing beyond a high score. Xenoraid’s hooks are a semi-persistent ship upgrade system along with the ability to switch ships on the fly on missions which certainly give the game some mechanical identity, but it’s uninspired visual style and lack of enemy variety make the experience a bit of a chore.
Xenoraid’s defining feature in moment to moment gameplay is it’s four-ship system. When starting a chapter you’ll have a suite of four ships on hand – usually of different types. You are free to buy, sell and upgrade your ships to make a combination that works for you. You can switch between each of the ships you bring to missions on-the-fly, and you’ll need to use this ability often. If a ship is destroyed, it’s not coming back – and you’ll either need to go without it for the remainder of the chapter or buy a new one to replace it. Understandably it’s cheaper to repair a damaged ship than to buy an entirely new one, so you’ll want to make liberal use of the ship switching to pull critical fighters onto the bench. As each ship can have vastly different handling and weapons systems switching is essential to adapt to changing enemy types.
There’s another advantage to switching out ships to keep them safe – ships themselves can be upgraded individually and so become more valuable. If you lose a ship not only do you need to front the cost of replacing it but you’ll be replacing it with a lesser ship unless you can afford the upgrades again. There are some non-ship-specific upgrades that can help however ranging from reducing the cost of replacing ships if they’ve been in service for longer or free repairs for your most damaged craft.
For me though, even with this progression system and varied ship types, I found the game itself bland. Each chapter tells some basic story with some character stills and scrolling text but it was uninteresting enough that I found myself not paying attention to them. While there are new enemy ships introduced in each chapter, and new ships unlocked as you progress, the whole time I was playing it really just felt like I was doing the same thing over. You spend so much of the game on the same scrolling space background, against mostly the same enemy craft that it all begins to blend together. There is a survival mode along with co-op, but I found surviving or co-operating didn’t really help the sameness of the whole thing.
It’s not that the game plays badly. I’d call it above average for a cheap indie scrolling shooter. Ship handling leans closer to the Western style with ships having momentum rather than moving exactly as your directional inputs dictate. By default ships lean with your lateral movement, and so will their aim. This helps Xenoraid feel different but I found it added an extra layer of difficulty I didn’t appreciate – luckily there’s an option to go to a comfortable non-tilting control scheme. The tactical depth of ship swapping and higher stakes of risking upgraded ships helps make each encounter a little more interesting and meaningful than they would be otherwise.
My biggest issue with Xenoraid is that all its interesting ship swapping and upgrading mechanics didn’t stop me from finding the game unbearably dull to play. The same scrolling space-scape, mostly the same enemy ships, and even bosses that are mostly similar in how they’re defeated – there’s so little difference in the moment to moment action as you progress through the game that I found myself bored after fairly short play sessions.
Xenoraid is serviceable, even above average as a scrolling shooter, and it has some interesting mechanics that set it apart – but it’s a struggle when the enemies and landscapes are this monotonous. It’s not a bad game, just one I struggle to recommend.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
- Ship and hangar upgrade systems
- Unusual tilting ship movement
- Bland enemies and environments