Alright, let’s get this over with from the start. Yes, this does look like a certain exploration/action/adventure game from our past and yes it even plays like it, but don’t think for a minute that this is a bad thing. I won’t lie and say that this isn’t a dead ringer for, ahem…. the Metroid titles of that past, but for lack of a phrase, this is exactly what it is. Axiom Verge is the passion project of one Tom Happ, who has basically been a one-man development team. He’s slaved away on this title for the better part of 5 years.
And now, after those 5 years, we finally can play Tom’s vision, scratch that… his re-imaging of how a new Metroid could and should have been. But is it worth it?
Game Name: Axiom Verge
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PS Vita & PC
Developer(s): Tom Happ
Release Date: March 31st 2015 (PS4)
Where am I? Who are you?
In Axiom Verge, you play the role of a scientist, Trace, who awakens in an alien/technological world after a horrible accident. With no idea on how he is even alive or where he is, Trace is guided by a mysterious voice and there’s where you as the player start off in the game. I suppose that after coming to the realization that he was dead but somehow he’s alive again wouldn’t be so bad. However, it seems that the world he is in isn’t a friendly one.
Seriously, just about everyone thinks he’s a demon, and apparently, the will of Athetos says that Trace must die. See, that’s totally not friendly, but just because Trace is a scientist, it doesn’t mean he’s a pushover. Stuck in an alien world, Trace has to arm himself and boy does he ever as he has multiple weapons that he can pick up during the game. And while I won’t mention any of them so as not to spoil your own adventures, I will say that each weapon has a function and is best suited for specific situations.
What I love about Axiom Verge is that you’re not limited to the standard 4 point axis, meaning that you have full diagonal control which is super useful when you’re trying to angle that perfect shot or if you’re done to your last sliver of health and ever shot counts. And trust me, the latter happens a lot if you’re careful. You also have the ability to run and go while shooting at all angles or you can remain stationary while firing by holding down the R1 button.
The controls are also spot on, which is important in a game like this, especially for when you need to aim that critical shot or jump from one location to another. And thankfully you have the option of using either the analog stick or d-pad as a default. And for games like this, I find myself switching from one control scheme to another. Yeah, I’m weird like that, but it works for me and it just may work for you as well.
You also have access to a mapping system that shows you where you’ve been so far, pretty useful as you’ll find soon enough that the landscape is pretty vast. Most of the time I’ve spent just wandering around the map and blasting enemies in the face with my acquired arsenal. It’s just another example of using something that is tried and true, but it works so well so why change it?
But what is a side-scrolling action-adventure game without action? Pretty dull, right? Well, not this one, action is its middle name and you’ll be pitted against all sorts of enemies and even zone bosses that will attempt to delay your search for answers. And just like the games of old, these baddies don’t have a health bar or anything clear indication of where you need to hit them, so you’ll have to use your wits to figure it out before you meet your doom. Though many of the bosses have a predictive pattern, so downing them isn’t too hard.
Come with me on a fantastic voyage
Retro or not, you be the judge. This game is art in motion. The game runs at a steady frame rate as far as I can tell. I haven’t noticed any delay or skipping during my play-through. The animation, while pixelated, is smooth right down from Trace’s movements to the enemies and even the fire effects. But there are also the little details throughout the game that you shouldn’t miss. Such as the backgrounds, many of which their own unique animations that change from zone to zone. The audio is equally impressive. The sound effects such as weapons firing and explosions sounded really nice on my setup (extra bass please) and the accompanying soundtrack really helped create that sci-fi atmosphere for the game.
The game clocks in at about 6-7 hours of gameplay, at least that’s how long it took me. Though I’m fairly sure that the time it takes to beat the game can be taken even lower and so does Tom. In fact, he’s even tossed in a speed-runner mode, so I expect to see plenty of sub 2-3 hour game completion times when the game is analyzed and memorized by those lovable speed-runners out there.
All in all, Axiom Verge is a wonderful 2D romp in the land of sci-fi and it doesn’t let up once you start. This game could definitely be mistaken for a Metroid game by the uninformed retro gamer and, honestly, I feel that’s a wonderful compliment. I’m pretty sure that was exactly on Tom’s mind when he started work on Axiom Verge many years ago. In fact, I’m impressed that this labor of love was accomplished by one person, let alone the fact that I really can’t say anything negative about the title. And that’s not saying I want to but, you also have the good with the bad. I wouldn’t be doing you, our fans and readers, justice if I didn’t do that. I’m happy to report that if you’re looking for that perfect game to keep you busy while scratching that Metroidvania itch, then Axiom Verge is just the game for you.
For those folks who stood in line with me at the local Best Buy to play this on the PS4 kiosk, you won’t have to do that for much longer!
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Should you check out Axiom Verge? Hell Yes!
I thought I was dead,but apparently I'm alive and ready to go
Axiom Verge in my book ranks up there will some of the best 2D side-scrollers of all time, including some of the more recent ones. For a one-man show, Tom Happ has created a fun and fascinating action-adventure title that should not be missed by anyone. Sadly if there was anything that I would have to point out about the game, it’s that it’s currently only available for the PlayStation 4 at the moment. And while it will also eventually make it to the PS Vita and PC (on which I’ll be double-dipping with), I feel that a game like this is something that should be experienced by everyone, but sadly our Xbox brethren will miss out on this gem.
But for everyone else, don’t ask if you should pick up Axiom Verge, just do it.
- Graphics - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 10/1010/10
- Audio - 10/1010/10
- Value - 10/1010/10