Axiom Verge Review

All impressions come from a copy of the game provided by its developers played on my PS4.

In my time playing Axiom Verge, I’ve explored, fought, died, made mistakes, and most importantly, learned from them. Though I’ve not yet completed the game, its unique art style, amazing soundtrack, tough boss fights and variety have thus far made for an amazing experience; one that I can thoroughly recommend.

While it is certainly fitting to compare Axiom Verge to the superb 2D Metroid games of a decade ago, Axiom Verge has its own identity. There is no doubt that Axiom Verge is inspired by masterpieces like Metroid, Contra and the like, but it does more than just pay homage to these games, it adds to them. Axiom Verge is not a Metroid clone; it is an evolution of Metroid. I have an admiration for Tom Happ, Axiom Verge’s sole developer, for his ability to pay tribute to these classic games while simultaneously bringing modern game concepts to the table.

Over the course of the game’s five-year development, Happ molded an art style reminiscent of the 8-bit platformers I grew up on—an art style that feels familiar yet fresh. About 20 minutes into Axiom Verge, memories of my childhood overwhelmed me: sitting down with graph paper while playing Metroid to keep track of inaccessible areas, sleepovers in which half a dozen of us were curled up with our GameBoy Advances or Nintendo DSes playing Pokémon; those were simpler times, and I truly miss them. That onslaught of emotional resonance doesn’t often happen to me whilst playing games, putting Axiom Verge right up there with The Last of Us: Left Behind, Journey, and Shadow of the Colossus.

I’ve played a great many 2D platformers in my twelve or so years playing games, and I’ve found that over time, many become boring and redundant. The origin of that redundancy lies in variation; after a few levels, many platformers have the same enemies, the same types of areas, similar upgrades. The number one reason I’ve put seven hours into Axiom Verge, and am itching to continue, is because it has variation.

Every area has its own theme, be it a visual theme or a musical one. Over ten hours in, I’m still encountering new enemies, and having to go through the motions of discovering their weaknesses and inevitably having to learn from my mistakes. Each new weapon I discover is unique. The glitch gun has got to be one of the most original, inventive weapons in a platformer ever. Period. This variation keeps the game fresh, holding my interest.

When playing games, I’m a fanatic for exploration. Discovering secret areas, finding an upgrade, or encountering a piece of environmental storytelling expertly placed to be just out of reach enough that the player has to look for it, but not so far that it’s out of the way, are bliss. Axiom Verge encourages exploration, and oh have I explored. However, one of my only gripes with the game also lies in its exploration, which can get frustrating at times.

Out of my twelve hours played, a good many have been spent wandering around looking for the next area, the next boss, or the next upgrade. And sometimes, once that upgrade has been found, I have to trek halfway across the map again to an area where it can be used. One fast travel point per area on the map would go a long way in alleviating this frustration while still maintaining the sense of exploration and wonder the game offers.

Quite surprisingly, Axiom Verge has a very good story. It takes a long time to culminate, but after some interesting twists and turns, I can say the story impressed me.

There are still secrets left for me to discover in Axiom Verge, and I’m genuinely looking forward to uncovering them. Through its wonderful soundtrack, unique 8-bit art style, emphasis on exploration, and tough-but-rewarding boss fights, Axiom Verge is one of the best indie games on the PlayStation 4, and certainly the best game I’ve played in 2015.