Game Review – Axiom Verge (PlayStation 4)

Five years ago developer Tom Happ started working on a little side project, essentially a love letter to the Metroidvania genre and all of our favorite childhood side-scrollers that frustrated us while growing up. It’s been a long five years in the making, but finally, Axiom Verge has arrived.

To say that a game like this is something I have been waiting for would be an understatement. Despite how far we have come in terms of technology for video-games, graphics will never outweigh the importance of gameplay and just plain old fashioned fun. Sure, there have been some amazing games that have been able to make great work of both of these elements to create something amazing, but for the most part I think a lot of gamers lately are just too interested in wanting things to look realistic and life-like. It’s quite unfortunate because a lot of amazing titles end up suffering from this mindset.

On the bright side, however, I think it’s safe to say that Axiom Verge won’t be one of those titles. The hype surrounding this game is unreal. Whether it’s due to all the comparisons to Nintendo’s beloved Metroid franchise and other side-scrollers of the past or not, Axiom Verge is taking the gaming world by storm. People are talking about it everywhere. Social media, websites and forums, and even chatter amongst friends in person, it’s hard to miss a discussion about Axiom Verge with its impending release so close. Does it live up to all the hype though? Or will this be one of the most disappointing releases of the year for gamers?

Instead of making you read any further for my personal opinions and experience on Axiom Verge, I’ll just say it now. HELL YES it lives up to all the hype! It most certainly does. Axiom Verge is a tremendous feat for an indie game that is full of so much nostalgia and love for side-scrollers, and I absolutely adore it. The five years of development and all the blood, sweat, and tears from Tom Happ have certainly paid off and created one of the best, most nostalgic experiences I’ve had with a game in a long time. Whether I was blasting my way through enemies, trying to figure out how to get to hidden spots and secret areas, or getting frustrated with certain boss fights; I had an absolute blast with Axiom Verge.

Axiom Verge follows the story of Trace, a scientist who is also your main protagonist and playable character. He’s working on something in New Mexico when things go wrong, and he suffers a fatal injury from an explosion. When he awakens, Trace is no longer in his lab but instead a futuristic cyber-tech world that seems to be barren of other human life. Taking control of Trace, you set out to explore your new surroundings as an unknown voice in your head guides you through this new, strange world.

Right off the bat Axiom Verge seems very similar to Metroid. The way you find new weapons, power-ups, and abilities, the sometimes creepy atmosphere of the different areas you explore, the basic gameplay and controls, even the character and enemy sprites. If you keep playing though, you’ll soon find out just how unique Axiom Verge is in its own right. It’s much more than just a Metroid clone. Sure, there are a lot of similarities, not only to Metroid but also other side-scrolling action games like Contra, Bionic Commando, and even Mega Man, but that’s not a bad thing here. Axiom Verge is its very own experience, and it’s an amazing one.

Axiom Verge has a lot of replay value as well. Depending on how you play it, the main story can take you either around 8+ hours to beat, or around 3-4 hours if you skip some of the hidden secret areas and items to find in the game. And for a game that boasts over 50 weapons, items, and power-ups, that’s a lot of stuff you’d be missing out on. There’s also a hard mode you can go through if you’re up to the task, as well as a Speed Run mode if you’re in that. I myself don’t particularly enjoy Speed Runs, but only because I like to take my time to explore and enjoy games like this. The thought of missing something just bugs me too much.

The soundtrack to the game is an awesome blend of 8-bit sounding tunes reminiscent of classic NES titles. Complete with the ability of getting stuck in your head and making you hum all day long. Tom Happ has noted that creating the soundtrack to the game was one of his most enjoyable experiences through Axiom Verge’s development, and it definitely shows with how catchy and memorable all the tracks came out. The music and sounds you hear throughout the game are all a part of its unique charm that just keeps calling you back for more.

Overall, Axiom Verge is a tremendous accomplishment for the one-man development team of Tom Happ. It must have been a hard journey through the five years of its development, but I, along with a mass array of other gamers, are all glad he pulled through it to finish and release this project. I had an amazing experience and a lot of fun with Axiom Verge, and will continue to do so. If you have even the least bit of interest in the Metroidvania genre, or just action-advanture side-scrollers in general, I can’t recommend this game enough!

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