Axiom Verge on the Nintendo Switch feels just right. It’s a throwback to 8-bit gaming on a console that’s been manufactured by the king of that era. The music, art direction, and even the writing is similar to what you would have played on the NES. It’s a Metroidvania game, meaning your access to parts of the map is blocked by particular items. It was originally released in 2015 and had been well received by fans. GWW’s EIC, the much respected “commish”, Jeff Gordon, thought I’d be a good candidate to review Axiom Verge, as I had never played it before and I’m a fan of the genre. My experience has led me to recommend the game but only to fans of the Metroidvania-mania.
You play as Trace - a scientist and total geeks (like us!). After an explosion, Trace is injured and months later, after considerable treatment, Trace and Dr. Hammond cross The Breach and enter Sudra. From this point on I had a hard time following the story. In fact, I began to skip the story entirely after the second hour of gameplay. I play this genre of games because of the complexity of the levels and the feeling of accomplishment when you find that item that suddenly opens doors you walked by hours before. Axiom Verge does this over and over again in bigger ways than Metroid and Castlevania have. The difference, however, is those games are tighter. Regardless, Axiom Verge is a lot of fun and the weapons are especially neat. To get through small corridors you’ll use a spider drone that has its own health and a small drill. It’s a neat way to provide similar utility as Samus in Metroid without actually ripping off the morphball ability. Tracking the items and weapons is critical as enemies deal a lot of damage and it’s easy to die. Fortunately, there are several save points.
The controls are solid and it feels second-nature to complete some of the more complex motions, such as double-tapping and holding forward to phase through walls with the lab coat item. Graphically, Axiom Verge looks as intended. There’s no point in adding colorful cell shading or making the game 2.5D like the new Metroid on the 3DS. This is the game the devs wanted to make and that’s just fine with me. The worlds only vary by color, really. The vegetation varies as well and it presents that feeling of difference between each world. If you grew up on NES games you’ll feel at home here. It’s not a bad thing - it’s part of the feel of the game. But the only real memorable areas are few and far between. The save stations are large, mechanical hubs. The AI interfaces that Trace interacts with are room-filling humanoids that tower over Trace. They’re powerful beings and their design sells it.
Who is this For?
Axiom Verge takes the characteristics of Metroidvania games and amplifies them. The sub-levels are complicated and there are tons of weapons, items and upgrades. It’s not as tight as the latest Metroid title (Samus Returns) or others from the past but it’s a game you’ll like if you love the genre. If you’re stumbling onto this review and you don’t own a Switch, you can grab Axiom Verge on the Vita (yay!), PC, XBOX One, PS4 and Wii U.