After an experiment destroys his lab, Trace wakes up to find himself somewhere else. Somewhere unfamiliar and somewhere hostile. He is given some vague guidance by a mysterious voice and sets off to find out where he is and what is happening.
Look at any screenshot of Axiom Verge and you’ll see Metroid’s influence. It runs deep and elements of it can be seen everywhere, from the way you progress around the map to how enemies behave and general gameplay. Even the connecting doors between rooms look like the ones from Metroid. However, simply saying “Well, if you like Metroid, you’ll like this”, would be doing this very promising game, a disservice.
There’s a heavy sense of mystery about Axiom Verge. Trace seems to know no more than we do about his current situation. It’s up to the player to piece things together from clues dotted around the map and what Trace has been told. You’ll come across certain rooms and objects that make you wonder if they’ve got a greater significance than what they seem. I haven’t really got any firm ideas yet of what it all means, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it will take me. As interesting as the mystery is, personally, I really enjoyed just exploring the world at hand.
There’s a dark atmosphere to the game that’s almost horror like. The colour palette is dark and grim. The retro aesthetic feels like a combination of Metroid and Cave Story. The small details in the background with the subtle animations really made the world look and feel alive. It might sound silly, but I really like the way enemies and such explode and just fall to pieces, it’s a really satisfying small bit of visual feedback. The enemies have an organic and grotesque appearance, they reminded me of something from Doom, especially the boss creatures. The music has a moody sci-fi feel to it. The sound design on the whole gives off eerie vibes. There’s these blood red bubbles that when shot, make these squelchy sounds and other enemies later in the demo that make these high pitched wails.
Just what is really going on in this game?
The use of weapons in this game is really interesting. I only had a handful to play with in the preview build sent to Siliconera, but each have very different purposes. Early on in the game, you’re given the basic gun to use but this is quite an impressive multi-purpose weapon capable of not just firing bullets and missiles. One weapon launches a bomb which is fired with one button and detonated with another press. While I didn’t find it helpful in combat, it was much more useful to reach switches and such, that your regular gun cannot reach. There’s also the Laser Drill, which is used to dig through walls and floors. It’s not always immediately obvious, what can and can’t be drilled, so I imagine a lot of the game’s secrets will be hidden away like this.
Personally, I found the moment that I got the drill, to be the point that the game clicked for me. I was seeing how the weapons function as both combat and exploratory devices and the game’s map started to become much more accessible with the extra weapons in my arsenal.
One of the last weapons I received was the Glitch Ray. This one is definitely one of the more unique weapons in Axiom Verge. You use the ray to manipulate the world around you. Not everything is glitchable, but like the Laser Drill, understanding how it works is the key to success. For example, there was a giant mushroom spreading its spores. Using the Glitch Ray, I could turn the spores into a rising platform so I could progress on. You can use on it on enemies too, with varying results.
So far, there’s a lot to like about Axiom Verge and I feel impressed. It’s a game that feels well-crafted and has a lot of potential. I’m looking forward to seeing more of it, and how it’ll continue to open up. If you’d like to learn more about the game, you can read Siliconera’s interview with the developer of Axiom Verge at this link.