Platformers are one of the oldest genres of video games. Not long after Pong started the revolution, Donkey Kong reigned king of the jungle. The rest is history: from the adventures of the plumbing brothers on Nintendo, to the rise and fall of the blue hedgehog, platforming has been a staple of the industry for over 3 decades. That brings the advantage of familiarity to the table, but it’s also a double edge sword: it’s difficult to create something truly new. How does Xenon Valkyrie+, this little game from Spain, published by a French company, hold up to other titles this late in the Vita’s life?
The game sees you on a moon, trying to acquire the evil witch’s plan. It’s all a bit Metroid-meets-Hansel and Gretel, but it does actually work quite well. With a story more robust than most platformers, developers Diabolical mind have been able to put forth a nifty little tale, delivered mostly through exploration and NPCs.
Exploration plays a huge role in the game, actually, considering the levels are randomly generated. I did find sometimes that the algorithm for creating the levels got it a bit wrong, and created areas that would be inaccessible or impossible to overcome. Thankfully, the developers made some cool additions to the controls, most notably the ability to jump down through some structures, which helps you get around this. I think this is quite a smart solution to the randomly generated conundrum.
Through the above-mentioned exploration you will encounter different worlds and different enemies, as well as different bosses. It all sounds very standard, but Xenon Valkyrie+ somehow manages to keep things fresh. I think it’s mostly down to two factors: the rogue-lite nature of “I’ve just died for the 200th time”, and the RPG elements.
The first is something that I struggled with a lot: I love my Vita; it’s an original OLED model and it’s had protectors and screen covers and cases since the day I bought it. But this little game made me want to chuck it out the window and set it on fire: just as I thought I was through with a boss or a level, I died in the stupidest way possible, losing a hell of a lot of what I achieved in the process.
Not all of it, though. This is where those RPG elements come in. There’s a lot of weapons and level-ups that make up (almost?) for how tough the game is. There are over 100 items, 3 heroes to play as, and tons of enemies and bosses (as mentioned before). But damn, is the game hard. If you thought Super Meat Boy was hard, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Along with randomly-generated levels, the presentation makes it somewhat more bearable to die and die again. The 8-bit inspired graphics look gorgeous, and the game runs like a Swiss clock. For me, though, the highlight of the presentation department is the rocking chiptune score, which is absolutely amazing. It is easily one of my favorite soundtracks of 2017 and I would love to own it so that I can play it when I’m out running.
Overall, Xenon Valkyrie+ is not for everyone. It is way too difficult and frustrating for the casual player. However, the gorgeous presentation, fantastic soundtrack, the secrets, the exploration, the enemies, bosses and items are a healthy, hefty reward for the brave souls who attempt to conquer this particular moon from the grasps of the evil witch.
At a glance:
- Title: Xenon Valkyrie+
- Publisher: COWCAT
- Developer: Diabolical Mind
- Format: PSN Download
- Memory Card Space Required: 54MB
- Cross Buy: No.
- Cross Save: No.
- PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC