Axiom Verge is, quite simply, the next Metroid game. While it might not star Nintendo’s iconic Samus, and while you might not roll up into a ball, make no mistake that this game is a spiritual successor to Super Metroid. You explore an alien world and have the local flora and fauna try to attack you. You upgrade your skills and weapons to help unlock new areas. Despite the fact that it’s not a new concept, it still works incredibly well and ends up being a huge world filled with tons of secrets.
Axiom Verge has you starring as Tripp. After a massive lab explosion, you are seemingly transported to a different world. The ancient inhabitants of the world ask for your help to fix their mechanical bodies. As you begin to work on them, you discover there is a lot more going on than what you’ve been told.
Soon after your arrival, you discover an alien weapon and begin your quest to explore the world. It can not be overstated on just how much Axiom Verge feels like Super Metroid. The 2D terrain has you platforming past around the world in search for upgrades to your gun and to Tripp himself. Every time you unlock a new ability, you realize that there’s a new area that you had previously seen but were unable to explore.
While it might not feel original, it feels like Tom Happ (the sole developer of Axiom Verge) has mastered the formula. Jumping and shooting feel perfect and lead to you never getting overly frustrated with the game. Plus, there really is a thrill when you unlock an ability and realize that an area you previously couldn’t explore is now open.
A wall might be blocking your path, but as you progress through the game, you gain the ability to teleport yourself through walls. Ledges that were once impossible to reach become easily traversed after you upgrade your jumping abilities. All of these upgrades feel fairly standard until you unlock the hacking ability.
When you use this ability, you create a wall of energy. Using this energy, you can “Hack” enemies and environments. If you’ve ever seen videos of people on YouTube corrupting old SNES ROM files, it feels like your corrupting the world.
Using the hacking gun has a lot of different effects. You can use the ability to uncover hidden challenge rooms in the game. Hacking enemies can make them slower or it can turn them friendly. This can be essential at later points in the game when health pickups are scarce and you need to dodge a huge amount of enemies to get to the next save point.
It can even turn some enemies into, essentially, “Missingno”, the corrupted Pokemon you heard everyone on the playground talking about. Doing this can make enemies too large to follow you through areas and is a godsend in one particular area of the game. You can’t choose what corruption will happen, though, so it’s best to try using it on every enemy you can just to see what happens to them.
The world of Axiom Verge is absolutely huge. In fact, at times it can be too large. Granted, the game is incredibly fun to play and you’ll likely want to explore every single corner, but there really isn’t a way to quickly traverse the environment until late in the game. Having a fast travel mechanic would have easily cut some amount of time from your experience. Yet, at the same point, once you finally can travel back to the original areas of the game, you feel accomplished and like a different character. There’s satisfaction in it, yet at the same time it’s a very slow process.
Once you return to those areas, you begin to look at everything differently and in doing so, unlock a huge number of the games hidden weaponry. While you don’t explicitly need to upgrade a lot of abilities (there’s a Trophy for beating the game with under 40% completion), finding these can help you immensely. The lightning gun, for instance, targets enemies for you. There are weapons that have huge arching attacks that can hit multiple creatures at once. Combine this with the hacking ability and it makes for some really interesting combat.
That said, the bosses are probably the weakest point of the game. Most of them require you to shoot at only one or two spots until they are dead. Rarely do you need to use the hacking gun to fight them. Late game, there are some fantastic “Boss” fights, but for most of it, you just simply use your most powerful gun, shoot and repeat.
However, the game makes up for it with its brilliant visual design. The sprites are incredibly detailed and the world feels organic. The soundtrack complements the world perfectly and makes it feel incredibly dark and desolate for most of your time with it.
Axiom Verge is a Metroid game but it is an incredibly well made one. Every detail in the world seems well thought out and the addition of the hacking ability makes it really stand out. While the bosses could use a little more variety, the game makes up for it by having a huge amount of content. Since Nintendo hasn’t put out a proper Metroid game in years, Tom Happ decided to make his own and it’s one of the best in the genre.
SCORE: 9.0 out of 10
A code for Axiom Verge was provided to Pixel Related for review.