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Wonderfully Confusing - Axiom Verge Review
In 2010, Thomas Happ began work on a passion project in his spare time inspired by cult favourites like Metroid and Bionic Commando. Initially intended to release in 2013 for Xbox 360 and PC, it eventually launched in 2015 on Playstation 4 and PC. After around a year of negotiation and finding assistance from Blit Works, it makes its way to Wii U this year to the excitement of many Metroid fans. But does it hold up to expectations?
Platforms: PS4, PC, Vita, Wii U [Reviewed], Xbox One
Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Release: September 1, 2016
Press Copy provided by Thomas Happ Games
Straight off the bat, moments after starting the game, the Metroid influence is very clear. The visuals feel like an evolved NES Metroid style, the music is alien and oppressive, you even go left to pick up your first power-up. The early game is fairly straightforward and eases you into the game’s mechanics, introducing new elements that distance it slightly from the Metroid formula. Things are very promising as you keep pushing forward. Eventually though, things might start to get a little abstract.
After a few areas your objective becomes unclear, you are likely to find yourself lost trying to find where to go next. The map layout certainly doesn’t help you work out where to go and there aren’t many clear destinations. You really are on your own in trying to find your way around, with plenty of cryptic secrets dotted around the map. Backtracking becomes a chore too, as you will be all over the place even with the intended progression. Despite that, you are free to tackle things in any order you’re capable of doing with your current arsenal.
Once you do find your way around though it’s a wonder to explore, as new abilities open up more areas of the world with lots of variety. However, there is an overabundance of weapons for your gun in the game, many of which don’t hold much purpose. Some weapons are most useful against specific enemies, but don’t be too surprised if you start picking favourites to stick to.
The story isn’t too much to write home about, being deliberately laced with mystery with more questions than answers. Various notes dotted throughout the game shed light on the situation, with backstory and lore to flesh out the world. Some secrets feel a little too secretive, often making you wonder how you’re supposed to work it out, but a lot of it does eventually come together. Some secrets require secret codes which are hidden in some of the notes, which are perhaps the most cryptic element of the game. There are also a variety of secret worlds which the locations to are randomly generated with each playthrough, which further adds to the confusion.
For Wii U specific features you can have the map always present on the Gamepad screen, select weapons on the fly and even tinker with a few visual settings. It isn’t much and doesn’t necessarily make it a definitive version, but they’re welcome nonetheless.
Axiom Verge does a lot of very clever things but ultimately falls short of being a masterpiece through its lack of clear cut direction and too much padding. It’s a shame considering that when it’s good it really does excel. It sorely needs a redesigned map to better guide the player through in a logical manner.
- Tight controls
- Very atmospheric
- A solid challenge
- Confusing design
- Overemphasis on backtracking
- Excessive weapon selection
Great games are generally good buying decisions and are recommended for those with an interest in the genre. There might be a few flaws that detract from the gameplay, stories, controls, presentations, or value, but the game is still an enjoyable experience that justifies a full playthrough.
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