Xenon Valkyrie+ is a graphically enticing action platform game with some unfortunate missed opportunities and questionable design choices. As a PlayStation Vita download, it thrives at times, but the game just wasn’t meant for home console play.
Valkyrie+’s transition to the PS4 doesn’t work conceptually due to the game’s unforgiving nature. Once you die, and no matter how far into the game you are, it’s back to square one. If you were at level 30, you’d better get ready greet your old friend level 1 again, as the game isn’t exactly a walk in the park. This may work portably because you can always grab your handheld device and pick up where you left off, whereas there’s little obligation to boot up your home console just to potentially start all over again.
On its surface, the game is appealing. It’s got that pixelated-retro feeling we’ve all come to know and love, and we’ve seen these aesthetically nostalgic design choices in a lot of indie games. With some cute character designs and a soundtrack that’ll completely pump you up, you have at least two of your senses satisfied.
Xenon Valkyrie+ has some surprisingly in-depth RPG elements for its overall underwhelming gameplay. You have three characters to choose from when starting, with the only real differences being their starting stats. Otherwise, they each jump and attack virtually the same way. Each character has a close-range melee weapon and a gun for long distance attacks. With this arsenal, it is your duty to guide these characters through randomly generated levels, collect power-ups and advance to the next level through a portal. Through defeating an assortment of weapons, you’re allowed to level up, though this digital promotion has no real bearing on your actual performance. You’re allowed to enhance your Health Points, strength, and defense, so leveling up is pointless; it isn’t immersive enough to be placed in the game as a reward system since there’s no real reward.
The game’s unforgiving nature can also be contributed to its randomly generated level design. Depending on your luck, you can either end the level with a lot of money and tons of power-ups or have pitiful wealth and have health depleted thanks to a spike you accidentally landed on due to poor platform design. You are forced to play carefully and patiently while you’re given mobility that screams “fast-paced action.” The wall-jumping, fast mid-air trajectory, action-packed characters you’re given are forced to slow down due to the risk of starting over. This restriction feels more like the game is playing you, and it can easily wear out your patience. It creates a risk over reward system that can make the game feel incredibly tedious.
Some may argue that the game’s automated level design offers variety with each new playthrough but they fail to justify each of the levels repetitive platforming. If you manage to defeat the boss of each area, you’re thrown into a visually different stage, but nothing structurally anticipating. Creating fixed levels from scratch could have complimented the fast playstyle that the game begs to be played in, and can easily be a lot more diverse in structure.
Xenon Valkyrie+ wasn’t a bad first attempt from indie-developers COWCAT Games. The game had potential and was clever by combining action-platforming with RPG elements. In the end, however, the game doesn’t give you enough reason to keep playing and unfortunately falls under its own frustrating and contradicting design choices.