Axiom Verge is a spectacular Indie game created by Tom Happ. This game was flying under my radar for awhile, in fact it wasn’t even on my radar. Until recently I had no idea this game existed let alone that it was going to be released on PS4, the best place to play. If not for a tweet from a buddy of mine I play Destiny with I probably would’ve missed this game at launch. From the moment I saw the video my friend shared I knew that this was going to be a day one purchase. When I was asked to write this review I just had to say yes.
When you launch Axiom Verge for the first time you will see an opening cut scene reminiscent (because of its style) of games such as Super Metroid, Comix Zone, and Streets of Rage. After an experiment goes haywire Trace, the failed scientist you play as, wakes up and immediately knows he has been transported to an unknown time and place. A womanly voice calls out to him and tells him where he can find a weapon and also gives him a warning. The voice becomes silent after this leaving Trace alone and clueless as to what to do next.
In this unknown place Trace runs from room to room reluctantly killing anything and everything that stands in his way using a variety of weapons, items, and upgrades to make those items and weapons more powerful. There is plenty of exploration involved in finding hidden areas and secret passageways that grants you access to the aforementioned items. Some of the things that you will find are health nodes that, yes you guessed it, increase your total health; pieces of health nodes that when getting enough of increase your total health (Legend of Zelda anyone?); Power nodes & size nodes makes your weapon of choice better, stronger. You can even find upgrades that make Trace himself improve his skills so that he can conquer the barriers that stand between him and his goal.
Something new that Axiom Verge introduces to Metroidvania games is the fact that you are required to manipulate and/or exploit glitches found in the game in order to progress and open up new areas to explore. In true Super Metroid fashion a boss must be vanquished to gain access to this upgrade as well as other weapons & items.
Most of the boss fights are retrofitted. What I mean by this is there is no enemy health bar and to successfully annihilate your foe you have to recognize when their attacks are going to come and plan your attacks accordingly to maximize the damage you do. Some bosses change color and/or increase the frequency of their attacks the closer you are to defeating them. There is a room that is unique in design right before you encounter most bosses. This enables you to backtrack to maybe find some health or to access a save point which will in fact refill your health. Trust me when I say you want to have full health before taking on a boss.
The gameplay isn’t the only thing that screams Metroidvania. Whether you are fighting bosses or just exploring every nook and cranny in order to get 100% of the map uncovered (for you trophy hunters) the soundtrack is superb. Each map has a unique style of music. There are also some subtleties in the music that are pretty freaking cool. In the 4th or 5th map you unlock the music resembles something a tribal clan that lives in the jungle would play when having a banquet or ceremony of some sort. I haven’t heard anything like that in any other video game, Indie or AAA, in my life. If you love the music of this game, which you can hear in the livestream I did last week, you will be glad to know that the original soundtrack is available at a variety of online retailers including Amazon today.
Whether its to promote replayability or to appeal to gamers who love to go back and do speedruns of their favorite games both past and present the sole developer of Axiom Verge included a speedrun mode. I was unable to attempt this mode for review purposes but I can honestly say I am going to try out this mode tomorrow so stay tuned to Twitter and Twitch so you can check it out. The only other game I’ve made attempts to beat when doing a speedrun is Super Mario Bros. on the NES.
All in all, Axiom Verge is a blast to play. I love the science fiction aspect of the story. The amount of weapons, upgrades, and items hidden in the game is just right. The map layout is a combination of Super Metroid and the dungeons found in The Legend of Zelda. For those that grew up on the 8-bit & 16-bit games we now classify as retro I urge you to open up your PSN wallet. This game hits PS4 on 3/31/2015 with a release on PS Vita coming in the near future. A PC version is also going to being released in another month or two. If you are a PS+ member you will have a 10% discount at launch. For the PS Vita owners you will automatically have that version as well when it releases thanks to the Cross Buy feature. Two devices and one amazing game for one price. Yes please.
This is the Super Metroid of the 21st century. Don’t miss out on the best game winner at E3 of 2014. I truly believe Axiom Verge has the potential of being my Indie game of the year. It certainly is my Indie game of Quarter number one in 2015. Let us know if you plan to pick up this game at launch. I hope this game has a ton of success would really love to see more from this developer in the years to come.