After a long time waiting, Axiom verge has managed to make it’s way to the PlayStation Vita – Sony’s forgotten handheld. This indie Metroidvania title has been making waves over on both PC and Mac, but how does it fare in the console space?
Developer: Tom Happ Games
Publisher: Tom Happ Games
Reviewed on: PS Vita
Also Available On: PlayStation 4 & PC, coming soon to Xbox One & Wii U
Release Date: Out now
You take the role of a scientist called Trace, working on an experiment when everything goes horribly wrong. An explosion occurs – transporting Trace to an alien planet. When he awakens, he’s greeted by Elsenova – a giant war machine that has been heavily damaged. Elsenova asks Trace to help her repair herself and others of her race, (the Rusalki) and aid them to destroy a man known as Athetos, who has plunged the Rusalki’s world into chaos. Trace reluctantly agrees to help the Rusalki with their plan and on his journeys, Trace will try to figure what has happened on the planet.
Axiom Verge is a 2D Metroidvania style game, which means that its gameplay is quite simple to understand. You travel across the map, looking for new items to pick up and shoot any enemies that get in your way. There are over a dozen weapons to find throughout the game, which range from a basic blaster to a flamethrower. Seeing so many weapon choices are great to see, but some are obviously better than others. While exploring the map, you will also find upgrades and equipment to allow the player access new areas in the game. These range from a grappling hook to a trench coat that allows Trace to phase through walls. But, the one stand out item is the disruption field. This is an upgrade to your main gun that allows the player to distort the world around them. This allows the player to create platforms, distort walls and cause enemies to glitch. The ability to distort the world and the unconventional ways to enter new areas, makes Axiom Verge stand out from other Metroidvania style games.
The only downside to the gameplay is the constant backtracking. The map in Axiom Verge is a large one and requires a lot of backtracking like any Metroidvania style game. The main problem with this is the lack of fast travel, which makes these constant journeys an annoyance. This frustration is at its worst when you aim to collect 100% of the items and see 100% of the map. This is just a minor announce, but since there are plenty of Metroidvania style games that have fast travel, it seems a bit odd to take a step back and not include fast travel in Axiom Verge.
The story behind Axiom Verge is the weakest part of the game. From the main cinematics, little information is given about the alien world or the characters you meet in the game. You do learn more about the world and the characters by collecting notes, but these can be easily missed, especially if the player has no interest in collecting items. Because of the lack of information given in cutscenes and conversations between characters makes the story in Axiom Verge quite cryptic. Even if you do collect all the notes, it can still take some time to piece everything together and figure out what is going on.
Another great aspect of Axiom Verge is the environments of the game. From the start, it is obvious the Metroid series was a big inspiration for Axiom Verge. Whenever I entered a new area, it felt it was alive as there was always movement happening in the background. Each area looks alive, with very little mechanical looking backgrounds in the game. Even the enemies have more of a focus on living creatures than machines. These environments give a great feel of walking through an alien world.
In the end, Axiom Verge was still a great game to play through. Very few Metroidvania games are being made today, so it is great to see another installment in the genre. The gameplay is really fun to play, and there is a great selection of enemies to fight. There are a plethora of weapons to choose from and some interesting equipment that makes Axiom Verge stand out from other Metroidvania games. It is a shame that the story behind Axiom Verge does not live up to the gameplay.