Groundhog day in gaming form

Title: Xenon Valkyrie+
Platform: PC, PS4, PS Vita, Switch (reviewed), Xbox One
Developer: Diabolical Mind
Publisher: COWCAT Games
Release date: Available now for PC, PS4, PSVita, Xbox One; January 1, 2019 for Switch
tl;dr: For those who enjoy always starting over
Price: $10/£10 across all platforms
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Xenon Valkyrie+ is a rogue-like platformer mixed with RPG elements, which first saw release as Xenon Valkyrie on PC in February 2017. The game was then ported to Vita in December of the same year as Xenon Valkyrie+, and then came to PS4 and Xbox One in a year after the original release on PC, which leads us to the Switch release, currently scheduled for January 1 2019. The game does not contain a story, as players are called upon to simply go through procedurally created levels in order to reach the game’s ending.

Xenon Valkyrie+ is a 2D 8-bit themed platformer where players run, jump, attack, and shoot weapons throughout levels in order to reach the next one. Pretty simple, right? As players kill enemies, they will earn experience points (XP) which allows them to level up, and as with any RPG title, get stronger. Players will encounter a variety of enemies such as small little raccoon-like aliens, to giant jumping spiders, and can choose from three different playable characters. While their default moveset all feel and look the same, they each have a unique skill. One of them can jump very high, one can set up a bomb, and the other one has a sonar that scours the level for the location of mini-bosses who fork over a key after killing them. In between levels, players are allowed to purchase new weapons thanks to the coins collected throughout the previous stage.

What I feel is the game’s strongest point, but also somewhat its most annoying trait, is the fact that every level is procedurally generated, meaning that if you die, you’ll never play the same level twice. The annoyance comes from the fact that you are always thrown back at the start of the game if you die. While this is a nice nod to classic 8-bit old school gaming, for players accustomed to today’s checkpoint system, they might get frustrated quickly. Furthermore, unlike a handful of RPGs, when you level up in Xenon Valkyrie+, you do not get a free health refill, so once you’re down to 1 HP there’s not much to save you. While it forces players to adapt to a new level design after a death, it’s really difficult, nigh impossible, to have a real sense of progress with the game.

As with any platformer, in order to progress, players will come across boss battles. Most of them are pretty straight forward; simply observe their patterns and you’ll make it out fine. However, the frustration stems from the fact that they require players to make good use of their guns, as the short reach of the sword will result in little damage.

The game’s presentation is definitely one of the title’s strong point; however it can be a deterrent to a certain extent. The game is presented in a colorful 8-bit palette, but the sprites are pretty small and sometimes, it’s easy to lose track of the protagonist while jumping around or even missing an enemy “hidden,” among the background – not an ideal scenario. Audio wise, the game has an adorable and addictive 8-bit score; nothing really memorable, like say, the Mega Man 2 soundtrack, but it does get stuck in your head for a while after a play session.

Xenon Valkyrie+ is an enjoyable throwback to classic 8-bit games. While it can be frustrating to always being pushed back to the game’s beginning after each death, the fact that the game’s levels are procedurally generated it feels like a new game every time and forces players to adapt to new enemy placement and directions to take to reach the end. While this might turn off current-gen gamers who were pampered with checkpoints, for $10 or £10, you can’t go wrong, especially on the Switch.

The Good

  • Adorable 8-bit visual asthetics
  • Procedurally generated levels

The Bad

  • Going back to square one after every death
  • The characters’ unique skills are pretty useless

Family Focus

Xenon Valkyrie+ is rated E for Everyone and PEGI7 due to the presence of mild fantasy violence. This is the perfect game for everyone in your family.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.