Null Drifter (Review) Nintendo Switch

Null Drifter (Review) Nintendo Switch
Review Score:

Developed by Panda Indie Studio, Null Drifter is a twin-stick 1D Roguelite  shooter that aesthetically resembles a classic Amstrad CPC or ZX Spectrum release. The entire presentation is basic, as is the story – being the ultimate space fighter pilot, the player must help Project Starship defeat the awakened forces of the Void. The evil that occupies the game is comprised of enemy spaceships, odd-looking monsters, and boss creatures more akin to nightmare fuel.

On the surface, Null Drifter resembles a basic shooter, but looks can be deceiving. When the game starts, the player is presented with a Amstrad CPC-style menu system where they can ‘Play’ the game; adjust the in-game ‘Settings’ (i.e. audio, video, etc.); and change the background color (which happens to be the playfield) between five available colors. 

Gameplay involves surviving as long as possible, while destroying enemies and collecting the coins they drop. When a specific amount of enemy spacecraft are eliminated, a boss will appear to challenge the player. Defeating this boss will start the next level and begin a new wave of enemies.

Surviving just a single level in Null Drifter is more difficult than it sounds. Each level is inundated with bullets, enemies and explosions, making it difficult to survive. The positive side to all this mayhem is how the game alerts the player to new enemies. (Right before a group of enemies appear, an “!” point will mark their entrance on to the playfield.)

Some of the larger enemies (including the bosses) emanate large, circular barriers that quickly span the circumference of the level. These barriers cannot be destroyed; they can only be avoided by ‘Dashing’ through them, which is achieved by pressing the Right Shoulder Button. Each dash must be timed precisely or the player’s ship will sustain damage. (Something worth noting: the player’s spacecraft has HP (Hit Points) like a standard role-playing game, which increases overtime. At the start of the game, said ship starts with only 3 HP, making it vulnerable to most attacks.)

Null Drifter is a difficult game to master. The game is designed to work against the player until they upgrade their spaceship. When the player dies, they end up losing their progress. Any coins collected during the game will remain, though, and these can be used to purchase spaceship upgrades such as additional ‘HP’, increased ‘Movement speed’ and better bullet ‘Damage’, to name just a few. 


The aforementioned ‘upgrade’ system is where Null Drifter shines the most. Depending on the number of coins the player collects during gameplay, they can purchase a variety of upgrades to strengthen their spacecraft, while making it less vulnerable to enemies. The player repeats this process every time they perish and restart the game.

Null Drifter’s 1-dimensional, monochrome-like graphics have a certain appeal to them. They invoke memories of being a gamer during the 1980s, where many coin-ops used this monochrome graphic technique. This technique is not only appreciated, but it gives Null Drifter a classic ‘retro’ feel that some games fail to replicate.

With that said, Null Drifter is a challenging, but fun shooter that may not appeal to everyone. This is due to the punishing gameplay, and how it starts the player with a fairly weak spacecraft. Essentially, Null Drifter is about collecting coins – and purchasing upgrades – to kill enough enemies to make it to the next level; that’s about it. But despite the aforementioned issues, Null Drifter still has an arcade-like appeal  that is certain to entertain some gamers. 

Mike Pittaro
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Panda Indie Studio
Publisher: eastasiasoft
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Price: $4.99

Null Drifter Nintendo eShop:

Review Score
While basic and lacking in color, the sprites happen to maintain an arcade quality to them.
Decent sound effects that include explosions, shooting, etc.
Punishing roguelike gameplay.
Null Drifter has an arcade-like appeal that some gamers will enjoy.
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