After ordering my boss to play Ori and the Blind Forest since it’s a hot topic of a game and a platformer, I couldn’t escape the platforming realm for long. I thought I was safe, but then Axiom Verge released with really glowing reviews, making me realize that SOMEONE should review this retro-styled platformer. I couldn’t escape this time.
To say I was nervous is a gross understatement. I was freaking out. It’s well known that I do not like platformers, have little patience for them, and am prone to rage-quitting them within minutes. Oh yeah, this is going to go oh so well. Even Chris laughed at the idea of it. I think he really wanted me to stream it so he could eat popcorn for two minutes and point and laugh at me.
Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed my time in this Metroid-esque crazy town.
Axiom Verge does not have state-of-the-art graphics or even a soundtrack performed by a symphony orchestra. Instead it proves that you don’t need either of these things if you have solid gameplay. The story behind it is simple, albeit a little overdone. The protagonist, Trace, is a scientist who died in a horrific lab accident, only to wake up in a strange world where nothing makes sense. A voice tells him to get a gun in the next room, and the rest is up to him to figure out. Like Metroid, the alien world is very straight forward and linear and is simple enough to burn straight through from boss to boss to boss. However, also like Metroid, it is only by exploration that Trace can find all of the upgrades to his weapon and health. It’s also the only way Trace can unlock all of the secrets about his strange circumstances.
It’s almost too easy to compare the game to Metroid as it has the labyrinth-shaped rooms connected by various tubes and portals, an emphasis on verticality, an upgradeable gun, and the need to revisit rooms after obtaining new powers and abilities. It even uses the classic “Justin Bailey” password to dress up Trace in a bikini and heels. It doesn’t help that it looks like Metroid and even sounds like Metroid. However, Axiom Verge takes it all a few steps further with weapons and abilities that do more than kill pixelated enemies in nasty ways; the various powers also affect and change the world surrounding Trace. For example, early on, Trace will find a drill attachment for his gun, allowing him to drill through certain bricks and thus previously impassable areas. Much later, he’ll find a coat that will allow him to pass through walls, opening up even more zones for exploration. It doesn’t take long for the game to suddenly become about unlocking every area on the maps instead of finding the next boss. I only went after the map’s boss after I was sure I had exhausted every pathway I could with my current abilities. Doing so caused me to often forget what I was originally tasked to do, even though it was vague to begin with, and the hours to slip away without feeling like I had progressed the storyline, a/k/a defeating the next boss on the roster.
And that’s just a little piece of my thoughts on Axiom Verge. I know I’ve talked about it on the podcast as well, but I really can’t recommend Axiom Verge enough for those who have that retro itch and really like Metroid-style games. But note that it isn’t perfect. I do get into that in my review.