You’re a long way from home .
As a kid growing up, the NES was an extremely prevalent system in my childhood. Naturally I have a soft spot for games that emulate that era, and today there is no shortage of them. Axiom Verge is another attempt at offering nostalgia, taking its gameplay notes from the genre now known as “Metroid-vania”. That being said, I was eager to jump right in and make myself at home on this alien world.
Playing as a scientist, an accident occurs and immediately players are waking up to a foreign world. Confused and alone, it’s up to the player to start exploring immediately. Anyone that has played Metroid will be immediately familiar with the aesthetics and gameplay at hand. Of course this means exploring is going to be a core element throughout. Where does the player go? How do I reach this ledge? As each room and hallway is explored, a map is graphed out.
Price I’d Pay: $15
Getting familiar with it is the best call, as it will be used a lot. Each area has a pretty distinct visual look, so while finding the way might not always be easy, remembering what each section looks like or cueing in on the changing soundtrack will be the player’s best allies.
The other core aspect at play is combat and upgrades. Starting off with a very basic shooting gun, this leads to encountering a plethora of various enemies and unique attack patterns. Some enemies rush the player, others shoot tiny projectiles. The normal pea shooter will not do, but that’s where the upgrades and new weapons come into play. A deadly short range electric blast, a spreading spray, and explosive projectiles are just a few of the many weapons to discover.
Meanwhile, upgrades are there to help explore and overcome roadblocks and stand out unique. A gun that pixelates enemies and reveals hidden platforms, a lab coat that lets you move between walls, or my personal favorite, a robot you have full control of to gain access to tiny areas and switches.
Everything in Axiom Verge feels like a love letter to a genre that has seen a revival lately, but nothing feels like a carbon copy. Weapons and abilities feel unique enough and bring their own spin to the table, and just when you think they’ve all been found, something else is thrown into the mix. The sense of gaining new abilities and new ways to fight and explore is a constant, and what keeps the excitement and curiosity going. What does the next room hold? A new weapon, new ability, health upgrade, or maybe even a colossal boss.
The only caveat to this is that the game doesn’t tell you where to go…at all. Some vague words are spoken via the story about what needs to be accomplished, and then players are on their own. Granted the audience that grew up with Metroid or Zelda even know all too well about having to find their way, but more recent players might find the lack of direction a bit wandering and aimless even. It has the potential to take away the pacing of the game and bring it to a crawling halt, which is a shame.
Axiom Verge brings its own style here and offers a familiar yet totally different experience on an alien world, with an eerie soundtrack and a story that is interesting, if a bit light. Fans of heavy exploration, no hand holding and interesting weapons will have an absolute blast, and when they’re finished can jump right back into the game with its speed runner mode. Axiom Verge is fantastic addition to any fan of the genre.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.