When it comes to “Axiom Verge” there are two certainties. One, it’s a complex and challenging experience, and two, it’s downright addicting. “Axiom Verge” is a game that pays homage to the Metroidvania genre, made famous in the 90s by games like “Super Metroid” and “Castlevania.”
If unfamiliar with either of the titles, the primary objective of the game is to explore an environment while slowly acquiring new equipment in order to traverse other parts of the map. “Axiom Verge” excels at recreating what made those games so special.
One of the only places “Axiom Verge” truly struggles is located within the game’s actual story. The player takes control of a young scientist named Trace, who after a fatal accident awakens in a mysterious new reality.
From here, the player slowly discovers a strange new world. The story is told through old school-like cutscenes, similar to what would be seen in Super Nintendo games. Despite the retro style, there is never anything interesting happening. In fact, most of the story is somewhat confusing. But “Axiom Verge” isn’t about story; it’s about so much more.
“Axiom Verge’s” art and world are some of its greatest features; the 2D side-scrolling gameplay is a wonderful compliment to the vibrant colors in each of the different areas. As the player traverses the game’s many different environments, a massive sense of nostalgia is bound to kick in as every sound and pixel is reminiscent of the past games. There is a real feeling of retro gaming, but like most modern games, there is a wonderful twist.
While the game relies on familiar mechanics like shooting enemies and jumping from platform to platform, it still brings something entirely new to the table. Like the games of the past, “Axiom Verge” is filled with various glitches, but there’s a catch—they’re just another tool on the journey. With this mechanic, the game’s potential is revealed as the player changes the game world.
Every enemy has an alternate glitch form that can either become a helpful ally or a weaker version of its previous self. Where this feature truly excels is when the map changes in order to help Trace.
Soon these tactics feel like cheating as a boss that may have been near impossible is now taken down because of an exposed “glitch.”
The game’s many bosses are some of the most appealing-looking the player will ever see, and each is bigger and scarier than the one before it. Yet, the player will discover each can be defeated with ease by using a certain weapon or a hidden glitch.
After defeating each boss, the player is back to exploring the game’s massive map, which presents another problem. While each of the “Axiom Verge’s” levels are certainly beautiful at first glance, the game’s level design becomes progressively more confusing over time.
The player is bound to be lost more than once while exploring “Axiom Verge.” With no way to ask for help or have story exposition retold, the map may become a place of hopeless wandering.
“Axiom Verge” pays excellent homage to games of the past like “Metroid” and “Castlevania” while still doing its own thing. The map may be confusing at times, but “Axiom Verge” is still an amazingly addicting experience. If looking for a game that taps into that classic genre rarely found in current games, pick up “Axiom Verge.”