Back on April 19th, 2016, Alex McCumbers reviewed Axiom Verge for Marooners’ Rock on the PlayStation Vita. In his review, he said;
Axiom Verge is an interesting tribute to the classics of video games that will, without a doubt, stand among those greats as a classic itself.
Alex, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Axiom Verge is an wonderful game that is at the same time a love letter to the Metroidvania genre and an innovative take that allows it to stand tall on its own. While some world and backtracking issues prevail, my journey through this world was one I won’t soon forget.
Axiom Verge stars Trace, a scientist on Earth who happens to be working on an experiment when something terrible happens and he is killed. His story doesn’t end there, however, as he soon wakes up in a bio-mechanical world called Sudra. He quickly meets these large mechanical entities called Rusulka and they act as a guide of sorts, and in return all they ask is that Trace help them repair themselves. That is about all the story I will go into for this review, because I found it fascinating and rewarding and don’t want to ruin it for you here. It is a game that encourages exploration, and to find out truly what is going on, you have to search far and wide and find secrets and hidden items to flesh out the main story.
As with games in the Metroid franchise, Axiom Verge is all about finding new weapons and upgrades to help you reach previously inaccessible areas. The sense of progression is one of the high points for Axiom Verge, and after collecting over ten different weapons and upgrades, I felt like an unstoppable force of nature. There is the Address Disruptor, or “the Glitch Gun”, that allows you glitch enemies and make them into platforms or gain access to new areas. Each enemy can react differently when hit by the Disruptor, so this weapon was always fun to experiment with. Beyond that, there is a remote drone that will allow you to get to areas to small for Trace, and when you are able to upgrade it, you will even be able to teleport to your drone’s location. Once again, I won’t go into more detail about these weapons, because some of the fun is wondering how to get through an area, only to unlock a new ability and having that “a-ha!” moment. It’s safe to say, however, that there are plenty of interesting and cool weapons and abilities that help keep the gameplay from getting repetitive.
Unlocking all these weapon and abilities will also prepare you for Axiom Verge’s awesome boss fights. They are epic in scale and can be quite challenging. Some encounters boiled down to simply memorizing patterns, but there were a few that felt unique and were very memorable. Luckily, failing isn’t a huge issue as the load times tend to be pretty quick and the checkpoint system ensures you aren’t sent too far back from where you met your demise.
While the weapons, upgrades, and bosses were all high points, the world itself and the exploration can’t quite reach the heights set by those Axiom Verge is inspired by. There isn’t any fast travel system and a lot of the map has a tendency to look the same. I spent a lot of time running through the hallways I knew I’d been been before because I just couldn’t find, or remember, where I needed to go next. I wish the game had some type of point-of-interest system where I could mark where I’ve been or where I need to come back to. I know I could do that with a pen and paper, but it would have been nice if there was another way to keep track of what you’ve done and where you’ve been, especially for those of us completionists out there.
After completing the game, Axiom Verge begs to be replayed. While there isn’t a new game +, there is a mode the rids the game of story moments and random elements and gives speed runners a chance to perfect their craft. What most interesting about this game mode actually is active in normal play, and that is the save system. When you die, you get sent back to the last save room, but all your progress remains intact. This allows for you to get to a certain point, but save far back, and then die to be sent all the way across the map.
This game is just so clever in its design and, even though its been said one million times, it’s more impressive that it was created by one man, Tom Happ. While it was no doubt a herculean task to craft this game, his singular vision shines though and you can truly see that Axiom Verge was created by someone who grew up loving these games and wanted to make his mark on the industry.
Considering what an achievement this game is, it’s great that it is finally available on the Nintendo Switch. It arrives as an identical port to the other versions of the game, and as to be expected, benefits greatly from having the ability to take it on the go. Playing on the Switch’s screen or in docked mode plays the same and give you a smooth and consistent experience. I can’t stress enough how nice it is to be able to take these games with me wherever I go and being able to jump in for a few minutes here and there while going about my day made exploration a blast. I understand it sounds like a broken record, but the portability and feel and look of the Switch allow these games to truly shine.
Axiom Verge is a great game and an even greater accomplishment by a very talented developer. While some of the world design and backtracking issues caused some frustrations, I loved my time in this bio-mechanical world. The weapons, upgrades and glitches kept me engaged and motivated to uncover all the secrets hidden in the game and I look forward to revisiting this game from time to time and just getting lost again in the beautiful madness. Axiom Verge feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch, and deserves all the praise it has already received.