Axiom Verge Review: Glitch in the System

March 31st, 2015 -

For years now, people have been asking Nintendo for a new Metroid title. Many have even insisted that a new one be a callback to the original series, meaning 2D. For all those fans that are in possession of a PS4, today is your lucky day, as Tom Happ has spent the past five years creating just what you wanted: Axiom Verge.

Elsenova

Get ready to travel back to the 16-bit era of games with this title, and a funky soundtrack that fits perfectly. There are plenty of Metroidvania games being released on the likes of Steam, but there are far fewer on console, and of those, finding one of this quality is difficult. It’s true that you’ll see its inspiration from the previously mentioned Metroid, as well as Castlevania, Contra, and more, but it definitely adds new tools you wouldn’t dream of back on the SNES.

In regards to the gameplay, in case you’ve never played a game like this before, you can expect a lot of platforming and directional shooting. Over the course of playing, you’ll pick up different weapons and tools that will help you progress past various blockades (puzzles or creatures). It is helpful to pay attention to where items you can’t reach are on the map, as the game doesn’t make a note of it for you, and there are plenty of collectibles that are not required to beat the game. However, they’ll help expand the story and make you more powerful. Some tools include a drill that will help you find secrets in walls or bypass a difficult area by scaling the inside of the wall – it also doubles as a close range weapon. Another tool you’ll grab deals in glitches – you know those flickering bits in the environment you saw twenty years ago? You can interact with those using this tool – not only that, but you can change enemies into something resembling the infamous Pokémon MissingNo. Doing so will not only change the pattern of that enemy, which may mean less projectiles or moving slower, but it also means it’ll destroy pieces of the environment that you may not have been able to destroy. A whole game could be created based on just these two tools, and there are a slew of others to be collected.

inventory

You’ll also pick up an assortment of weapons that will help hit door switches that weren’t possible before, and are especially helpful with certain enemies/bosses. In addition to that, there are the upgrades to health and weapon power, which come in the flavors of auto-upgrade and fragmented upgrade (collect x of these). There’s also various exposition you’ll come across, so you will be doing a lot of backtracking if you hope to collect everything.

The game’s environment is very alien, as you are whisked away to this place with no knowledge of how or why. A voice contacts you, but it is weak and needs your help. Each environment you travel through comes with a new set of enemies that you will meet, sometimes briefly seen somewhere else that you can’t quite travel to yet, and often quite difficult if you aren’t ready for them. Speaking of difficulty, this game has two – normal and hard. If you’re accustomed to modern day games, I’d suggest you play on normal, as that should be enough of a challenge. If you play console generation 3-4 games on a regular basis though, then hard will be your mode of choice. The game’s difficulty is dependent on your patience, skill, and whether or not you grab the upgrades. While there are trophies for collecting everything, there’s also one for beating the game with less than 40% of the collectibles – are you up for a real challenge? Try to get the hard mode trophy in conjunction with the less than 40% of items while speedrunning it in under four hours.

SlugBoss

To be honest though, you won’t be speedrunning the game during your first run, unless you follow a guide of some sort. The game isn’t a parent holding your hand as you cross the street, as much as it is a kid trying to escape their parents’ abusive hold. If you want to collect 100% of the items, you’re going to need some paper to make your own maps, and even then it’s likely you’ll miss something, as the game’s maps only tell you where doors, save points, and empty boss rooms are – everything else is an empty box of whichever color area you are in. It’s not a bad thing, but with no quick travel between save points, or a similar system, it makes backtracking a bit of a burden (especially if you’re not fully equipped to fight what is on the path back). There were several times it wasn’t just backtracking, but also finding where to go next. I spent thirty minutes in one bout trying to find where my next destination was – while I found plenty of things I missed for my character, I couldn’t help but feel disappointment when that was all the room held. Luckily, if this is an issue for you, it’s really only during your first playthrough.

The story isn’t the best thing you’ll come across, and I’m sure others will cite that it doesn’t come close to its inspiration – but you know what? Doesn’t matter. The gameplay loop is so fun that it could lack any kind of exposition and I’d enjoy it. Add in the fact that the soundtrack fully complements the world you’re exploring, and you’ve got a hell of a journey awaiting you.

I’m still blown away by the fact that this entire game was made by a single person – from the art to the music. Tom Happ absolutely killed it with this, and it is definitely worth the price of admission. Whether you buy it now on PS4 or wait for the Vita/PC release, you should definitely play through Axiom Verge when you have the chance.

BUY

Pros

  • Classic Gameplay Loop
  • Innovative Tool Uses
  • Great Enemies

Cons

  • Lacking Map Information

Axiom Verge was created by Tom Happ. The game was made available on PS4 March 31, 2015, and will later be released on the Vita and PC for $19.99. The PS4 copy reviewed was provided for us. If you’d like to see more of Axiom Verge, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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