Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo Wii U
Axiom Verge has been around for a while now with its original release coming back in 2015 on the PlayStation 4, whilst it’s also subsequently released on pretty much every other platform since. It actually came to the Nintendo Switch in October last year, but after recently getting a retail release in the form of the ‘Multiverse Edition’, we thought it’d be a good time to check Thomas Happ’s rather brilliant metroidvania title out.
Axiom Verge puts you in the shoes of Trace – a seemingly normal bloke who finds himself transported to a ridiculously strange location that’s full of sci-fi technology and, of course, vicious creatures that want to kill him. With no real knowledge of the location (or even how the hell he got there), Trace sets out on an adventure to find out what’s going on and how he can return home. He’s on a deadly alien planet though, so it’s not going to be an easy task…
There’s no denying that Axiom Verge wears its inspirations proudly like a big badge of honour. The way it feels, the way it looks, the sci-fi setup – this isn’t just a metroidvania title, but one that is clearly heavily inspired by the classic Metroid titles alone.
That isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination though, and if the success of last year’s Metroid: Samus Returns is anything to go by, fans have clearly been itching for more anyway. Axiom Verge delivers just that, and whilst metroidvania titles are a dime a dozen these days, the brilliant way in which it will remind gamers of the classic titles whilst still managing to feel fresh certainly helps it stand out.
So, given its inspirations, you should know what to expect from Axiom Verge. It’s a 2D adventure spread across a huge map. You can’t openly explore the map freely though, with some areas out of your reach until you earn the necessary ability to get through. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t approach them or get lost in the meantime, so a lot of your time with the game will be spent figuring out where exactly you need to go.
That’s how these metroidvania style titles work though, so you can expect to be doing plenty of exploration and backtracking. You always know that when you hit a blocked off area or maybe a ledge you can’t reach that you’ll eventually be able to get there – you’ve just got to keep a mental note of the location and wait until you get the appropriate ability.
Fortunately, exploring the world and discovering these abilities is a lot of fun. There are a ton of secrets to find, whilst the abilities you unlock are great to use. You’ll eventually be able to teleport, use a remote drone, drill through obstacles, or even use a grappling hook; Trace certainly becomes well-equipped for the adventure ahead of him. The best ability of them all though is found with the Address Disruptor, or as it’s more commonly known, the ‘glitch gun’. The glitch gun not only reveals a ton of hidden secrets in the environment, but can also be used on enemies to cause a wide range of different effects. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it here, but believe me, it’s a lot of fun to play around with.
Axiom Verge manages to balance exploration and discovery perfectly, and never puts you in a situation where you’ll be completely perplexed as to where you need to go. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll take plenty of wrong turns, but not once in the game was I ever frustrated and wondering where the hell I had to go. Add to that the sheer number of tools you’ll eventually have at your disposal, and you’ll eventually find that simply discovering the right path to follow (or one of the world’s many secrets) is one of the highlights of the whole experience.
Of course, it’s not all about simply exploring the environment – there are plenty of enemies that need killing too. Axiom Verge isn’t short of enemy types, with a good variety of foes coming your way who use all kinds of vicious techniques to try taking you down. Some might attack you up close, some might fire at you from range, whilst some will simply latch themselves onto Trace and drain him of his health. They come in different shapes and sizes too, so you’ll never quite know what you’ll face off against. It’s fun and challenging; Axiom Verge certainly doesn’t hold your hand as far as combat is concerned, so you can expect to suffer plenty of deaths at the hands of the beasts roaming through the maze-like hallways.
The boss battles in particular stood out, with them typically seeing you face off against huge beasts that have a much more powerful set of skills. They often take more than just gunfire to take down too, meaning you’ve got to think things through carefully and balance out both offensive and defensive manoeuvres to take them down. They’re all good fun to battle though and were often the highlight of the game for me – I love a good boss fight, even if some of them did take me a good few attempts until I succeeded.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that Axiom Verge is great (it’s received praise everywhere), but I can vouch for the game on the Nintendo Switch. Let’s face it: the game’s 8-bit aesthetic and simplistic style was hardly going to be a struggle for the console, but I can say that it runs perfectly. In fact, being able to play on the go was a lot of fun – the game is fairly generous with checkpoints, so being able to play it here and there during my free time worked out quite well.
Plus, it’s so clearly inspired by Metroid that it feels like it belongs on a Nintendo console. It’s certainly a good way to spend your time whilst waiting for whatever future Metroid titles come over to the console…
Whether you’re a fan of metroidvania style adventures or just like a bit of old-school sci-fi action, Axiom Verge is definitely worth checking out. The fairly lengthy adventure keeps changing things up by giving you an ever-growing arsenal of tools and weapons, whilst the constant barrage of strange foes you take on always provide tense and exciting showdowns. It’s just a good time all around, and I’d certainly recommend Switch (or any of the other platforms it happens to be on) owners pick it up.