Review : Axiom Verge

So we’ve been shy on updates lately, and that’s really my fault. You should never tempt working people into playing an MMORPG, they have a habit of, uh, disappearing. To make good on that I’m kicking us back into gear with a review of a new PS4 Indie title, Axiom Verge.

Now I’m kind of the indie guy around here, I went from not thinking much of indies to kind of seeing them as the critical darling of the industry right now with the big three all courting indie studios hoping to snag the next Minecraft. So I like to think I’m pretty up on what’s happening, yet Axiom Verge took me by surprise. It had very little fanfare before and after its launch, which seems a shame. I was initially excited when I heard it was a solo project by one Thomas Happ as Cave Story was also a lone effort and by my reckoning one of the best indie games yet produced. On that scale, Axiom Verge doesn’t quite measure up.

Breaking down the bits and bobs Axiom Verge is like Frankenstein’s Monster, there’s a lot here to like, and not to like. Visually it tugs right at those Metroid heartstrings, which it should since it plays virtually identical to it. On the other hand, its sameness to a game that was released on the Nintendo so long ago does it a discredit. Some scenery is just bland and uninspired while others look well enough in motion only to appear muddy and pixelated when standing still.

The story is nothing special, genre sci-fi that reaches for little and settles for it. Your “Hero”, Trace,  is uninspired and perhaps the worst-looking pixel character in the game. Some upgrades visibly make him slightly better but it won’t change your goofy stupid-looking character portrait. The plot doesn’t telegraph the story too hard, but you won’t audibly gasp at the “Big Twist” either. Wholly unremarkable.

The gameplay and music are where Axiom Verge shines. If you like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but long for the tight controls of Super Metroid then Axiom Verge was made just for you. Collecting new gadgets is fun and the game never hand holds you on what to do, you just have to experiment and make your own way forward. As a downside, much of the early game is tedious backtracking to find the thing you missed or the path your new gadget now opens. Bosses are great in that they are a mix of reflexes and puzzles. The boss in the screenshot above seems almost impossible until you utilize the right weapon.

Music I would rate well if not for the obnoxious sound effects. They are insipidly loud, and constant. Most players will find themselves muting the game if only to escape the constant barrage of laser sound effects and chiptune explosions, which is a shame since the soundtrack is by all turns good and fitting.

Overall I can’t recommend Axiom Verge at full price with what they offer you. A game like this will surely go on sale however or end up free on PSN, and it’s certainly worth your time.