With the ever increasing amount of rogue-likes coming to the Nintendo Switch, you almost have to do something completely different in order to stand out. Developer COWCAT is trying its best to stand out from the crowd with Xenon Valkyrie+ and it mostly succeeds, but also has some glaring issues that keep it from the upper echelon of rogue-likes.
Xenon Valkyrie+ is a side-scrolling rogue like RPG with your main goal being to progress through procedurally generated levels. This involves your character starting from the top of an area and working their way down through the many passages. As you make you way down there will be enemies to fight, money to collect, and chests to unlock.
On your way, you’ll want to defeat as many enemies as possible because defeated enemies net you experience points that are used to level up your character. The catch is that you’ll want to try your best to not take as many hits from enemies or land on spike pits, due to there not being near as many health pickups as other similar titles. Gold is important to grab since that’s your main source of currency and will allow you to buy useful items, such as ammo refills, grenades, a shield, and a rare type of currency used to buy some useful items.
If you buy or find gold keys, you can use those to unlock chests in the environment. The items within are completely random and can come in handy as they provide a great leg up on your enemies. Sometimes you’ll find rare weapons, but also weapons that are worse than what you have equipped as it’s completely random.
Before you begin a run, you’ll have three characters to choose from. The three different characters have their normal starting skills and one unique ability to them. One character can reveal useful items in the environment, another can plant bombs to get through hard-to-reach areas, and finally the last character can jump really high making it easier to get around.
You will die quickly the first few times you play, as you want to try and get a handle on the enemy patterns, level design, and the movement of your character. Unfortunately, your character can feel somewhat slipper to control when moving and that can take a little while to get used to. I wish your character’s movements were tighter, but it is functional and can be overcome with practice.
One aspect of Xenon Valkyrie+ I appreciate is that when you beat a certain section the level, you then get a teleport that will allow you to go back through the same area again just in case you missed something. If you end up dying on a playthrough, you’ll lose all your progress you’ve earned with that character except for any rare currency you were able to gain. This is your main source of progression and will allow you to buy more effective weapons and abilities.
Xenon Valkyrie+ is a very difficult game, but at the same time I found it rather addictive. As I was progressing through the title I started to notice different ways to play, including trying different tactics and learning about new enemies and their damage outputs. This progression will make you feel a sense of accomplishment that’s not as apparent in other rogue-likes and makes for good long or short play sessions. I wish there was some form of continual progression like in Rogue Legacy, but it is still enjoyable nonetheless.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Xenon Valkyrie+ are the retro graphics, and while of course it stands out, the sprites may be too small. It is definitely better to play the game in handheld mode versus docked because if you’re sitting too far away the sprites can be too hard to see. The soundtrack is also one of Xenon Valkyrie+ highlights and there’s some really great chip-tune tracks here complimenting the action on-screen very well.
Overall, while Xenon Valkyrie+ very difficulty and punishing, I enjoyed most of my time with it. $10 is a great price for a unique rogue-like experience and it does enough differently to warrant being checked out. As long as you go into Xenon Valkyrie+ with a certain mindset, you should be able to overcome the challenge and find a worthwhile experience.