I recently felt the itch to play a Metroidvania type of game. I played Metroid Fusion on my Game Boy Advance to a point, but stopped because I got stuck. I also picked up Cave Story+ briefly, but I often find myself too bored to go back and replay games I’ve beaten, so that didn’t last very long. I knew there were other games out there that classified themselves as a Metroidvania-like game, but none of them seemed to fit what I wanted. The controls were too funky, the theme/atmosphere weren’t my taste, or I just wouldn’t be interested. (I’m picky sometimes.)
Enter Axiom Verge.
The game was developed and published by Thomas Happ and released in 2015 for a variety of platforms. (Mr. Happ also created all of the artwork and music!) It’s an action platformer/Metroidvania-type game that follows Trace, a man who’s alone and trying to escape. Along the way, Trace discovers increasingly-powerful items and weapons and finds out who – or what – he really is. There are some unique and interesting items in the game, such as the Address Disruptor, which corrupts and manipulates enemies and the world to perform/act differently.
This game is fantastic. The fact that the whole game was built by one man is incredible in itself, but the fact that it includes a variety of weapons, moods, and setpieces in one place. Sure, it does have its issues, but those issues don’t take away too much from the overall enjoyment and satisfaction the game as a whole brings.
The artwork is amazing. Each environment stands on its own as a masterpiece, while integrating well with each of the other environments. There are about nine total, and there’s plenty to explore in each, with hidden rooms and entrances scattered about.
The music for each environment is also distinct and hauntingly beautiful, setting the tone for each event, every world area, every single step. It has a pseudo-retro synth sound to it, which (admittedly) has been a genre I’ve been liking lately, so this was right up my alley.
Another beautiful thing about the game is the difficulty curve. Axiom Verge starts off relatively simple to help you get your feet wet, but it gradually ramps up the difficulty to make for a challenging and satisfying climax. While increasing the difficulty, it also makes you feel more and more godlike through the various powerups and items you collect. Few games that I’ve played have managed to pull this off so well, Cave Story being one of them.
The plot, while enjoyable and intriguing, can be confusing at times. Thankfully, though, there’s a large amount of notes hidden throughout the game that fill in more of the game’s backstory. Believe me, there’s plenty of lore to be found in the game; all you have to do is put in the effort to find it.
Unfortunately, a game with so many strengths also has its weaknesses; its biggest one would be the amount of repetitiveness that goes on. Often, to progress in the story, you will have to go back through the areas you’ve visited and open previously locked areas. While this does have a touch of satisfaction attached with it, as well as a satiation of curiosity, it does also mean that the game has moments of staleness. It’s often frustrating having to go back and forth through an entire area, slaying enemies you’ve already killed and hoping you stay alive. I understand that’s a “problem” consistent with many games in the genre, but the frustration is still there.
All in all, though, I recommend that you play Axiom Verge. It’s a fun, enjoyable, and satisfying game. So satisfying, and yet, I felt like a hole had been left in me when I completed the game; I wanted more. On top of that, it’s one of the few games that I’m seriously considering going back and doing a 100% items/map run for. I NEVER do this, so the fact that I want to and have started is a really good sign. Seriously, give it a try. It’s well worth the experience.
Cost: $20, $25 if you buy the bundle with the soundtrack
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4; coming to PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and Wii U