Genre: Metroidvania (Action-Adventure)
Original Release: March 31, 2015
Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Played on: Nintendo Switch
I didn’t find out about Axiom Verge until a year or two ago, and that was through Games Done Quick of all things. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the speedrun, mainly because I had the video on for background noise. I vividly remember the runner getting a lab coat and using it to literally glitch through walls. That’s intended, by the way. Once you acquire a lab coat, you can teleport through walls within certain limitations. Then I saw a physical copy of the Switch port at one of my frequent haunts (a retro game store, surprise surprise) and figured “ah, why not? It looks neat!”
It sat on my shelf for months. I’m not sure why, but it never grabbed me until last week or so. But once I started, it was hard to stop! I might be a little biased, but I really enjoy metroidvanias. They’re not all fantastic, but they’re generally pretty solid.
So here’s the gist of the plot: You are Trace, a scientist working in a facility in New Mexico when your most recent experiment goes awry, destroying the facility and killing you. However, you wake up in a foreign world, with only a voice in your head urging you to do certain things: find a nearby gun, reactivate the power filters, and so on. It’s simple, but it works.
In the grand tradition of metroidvanias, you start with minimal power. One weapon to your name, and you can run and jump. But as you explore, you’ll gain more tools, which in turn will allow you to explore more areas, fill in the map, and collect more tools. It’s a weirdly satisfying loop, no matter how many times I’ve gone through it before.
What I find most impressive is that Axiom Verge was made entirely by one person: Thomas Happ. The art, the music, the map, everything. I’m plodding along with my Gradius clone and here this guy’s made an entire Metroidvania. That’s amazing, and honestly? Kind of inspiring, too!
Could it be better? Sure! There’s always room for improvement and I found myself spoiled a little bit by Metroid Fusion in that regard (for real, an objective reminder system would not have gone amiss, even if it was just a text box with a vague objective listed in it), but it’s not a deal-breaker.
For a one-man project, Axiom Verge is amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a Metroidvania game to lose themselves in for a bit, No lie, even a week later, the music and sound design just sticks with me. And you know what’s even cooler? At time of writing, a sequel’s in the works!
What I’m trying to say here is: Support indie devs! They do good work and deserve recognition.