Disclosure ‐ The wonderful Tom Happ provided us with a press copy of Axiom Verge at our request, which we are truly thankful for!
by Josh Ennor
“This game just rips off Super Metroid”, cries the fanboys who have no idea what they’re missing out on.
Axiom Verge is an indie metroidvania action-adventure game from developer Tom Happ. It wears its Super Metroid influence very heavily on its sleeve, and to some people that may be a negative thing. But fans of Super Metroid, or metroidvania style games at all will find nothing short of a fantastic game to include in their gaming “repertoire”.
The setting of Axiom Verge is what I believe to be it’s biggest boon. The absolutely beautiful retro pixel art design shows that pixel art is not something that should just be done because “it’s easier” than high-poly 3D rendering. It is used to set the tone of Axiom Verge and coupled with the insanely chilling soundtrack makes for something really special. I don’t want to say I was immersed in the world, because I don’t quite think that’s what was happening. However I was filled with this odd sense of safety, knowing that at any point I could return to my bright and colourful real life, if for no reason other than to escape the dread that our protagonist was facing. That’s not to say I wanted to turn it off, not by any means. It was captivating and I simply had to see what the next boss would be, or what was on the other side of that canyon that I couldn’t jump over earlier.
Tom Happ needs to receive some sort of award for his level design. As an action adventure platformer such as this needs to rely so heavily on having a well fleshed out map and I don’t think I’ve ever played one that achieved the level of “fleshed-out” that Tom Happ has achieved here.
If you have played Super Metroid, you’ve played Axiom Verge. However the progress you make in Axiom Verge feels exciting. I spent several minutes trying to find the path to the power-up I had found, whether it be to a new weapon, health increase or general power increase. Every pick-up felt exciting and that I was actually making progress. Which brings me seamlessly into my next point, in that as you play Axiom Verge. You can literally feel yourself getting better. Whether it was literally getting stronger via power ups, or simply understanding a little bit more about the world through your own clumsy mistakes.
In the similar style of Final Fantasy, a creature that may seem like a mini-boss turns out to be nothing more than a trash mob. Once you discover the “tactic” for each creature, a room full of the most frustrating creatures in the game becomes a joy to maneuver through without taking a point of damage (not that this happened often, because, y’know, the game’s actually pretty hard) and the satisfaction as you walk through the new doorway in unparalleled.
The story of Axiom Verge is quite literally the only fault I have in the game. And I will preface this by saying that it is not a bad story, not by any means. However I felt as though the story was the only thing that was not borderline perfection in the game. It does it’s job as a catalyst for the gameplay and giving meaning behind the desolate setting of the world. But I simply did not really care for any of the characters beyond my own, and although the story was incredibly unique (which is something that I applaud Happ for, in modern times, uniqueness is rare). It just wasn’t what kept me playing. Perhaps that is simple bias on my behalf as I am a huge sucker for a really great narrative. But the simple fact is that if this game had a sub-par storyline in my eyes, and I still could not put it down. Then, Thomas Happ. You have really achieved something special.