Axiom Verge takes place in a distant world where an experiment has gone horribly wrong. Players are surviving scientist, Trace, who is guided along by a mysterious voice through a maze of horrifying monsters and traps. The narrative is sparse, fleshed out by finding new items, fighting bosses, and reading journals. There are degrees of predictable plot points, but for the most part, Axiom Verge’s vague mystery sets up a refreshing twist for the genre.
Speaking of genres, let’s just call AV what it is: Metroid. Players will explore the maze, battle strange enemies, and unlock new areas via new equipment. The gear ranges from glitching through walls, jumping higher, and even sending out a drone to do some low level mining. Trace’s health and attack power can be upgraded with nodules and there are tons of weapons lying around as well. There’s a lot to choose from, but it feels like a case of quantity over quality. The best part is gaining new skills and unearthing surprises in a seemingly unending world.
It not only plays like Metroid, but it looks the part too. From desolate hallways, to teetering shafts, topped off with amazing pixel art. And, avoiding spoilers, the sense of scale in a few key moments is mesmerizing. The soundtrack is equally memorable with its pulsating beats and creepy mood setters. Now it’s not all peaches and cream. While the sense of discovery is thrilling, it’s easy to get lost, resulting in countless hours of backtracking, head scratching, and woe. A blinker toward the next objective, like Metroid, would have been great. Still, the lack of any direction is also what makes it special alongside it’s challenging, but not knuckle breaking, difficulty. It’s a new game in an old skin and it feels great.
Axiom Verge is breathtaking. What begins as a nostalgia trip, turns into something all its own. Thomas Happ’s, the sole creator, reverence towards Metroid and the overall genre is obvious. This work of love is one of 2015’s best yet.
Score: 5/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review code for the game. This article was originally published on March 30, 2015 via my Examiner account before the website shut down. Check out the supporting video review on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.