Review: Axiom Verge (PS4)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Axiom Verge
Format: PlayStation Network Download (314 MB)
Release Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Developer: Thomas Happ
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
Axiom Verge is also available on PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 417 of the podcast.

We’ve been following the progress of Axiom Verge for months, including livestreaming early builds on our Twitch channel. Let’s see how the final game turned out though.

Gameplay:
At first glance, most people will make comparisons to Metroid, and I’d definitely say that’s not a bad thing. It’s a multi-directional side-scrolling platformer where you start with nothing and build your capabilities up as you progress. A map is also available to show what you’ve encountered but that’s really where the similarities end. Unlike Metroid, you can fire in eight directions and even better, hold L1 to lock yourself in-place while you fire your weapons. Also, the weapons themselves are different than what the Metroid games include, and even further, there’s a “glitch” mechanic that starts appearing as you progress. This “glitch” in the system plays an important part as you progress and when you finally get the Disruptor it can be used to fully activate some of the glitches. These can then be used to do things like reach a previously unreachable platform.

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Bosses are very well done in Axiom Verge as well with most taking-up more than half the screen as the battle rages on. Each boss has a learnable pattern (or patterns) which brings that old-school feel in all of the right ways. The challenge level ramps up quickly and this definitely isn’t an easy game by any means but I’ve never felt like it was too difficult. When I die I know it’s my fault. The game doesn’t cheat to defeat you which is refreshing.

… you’ll zip past many hours without realizing it …
The map is huge too. You’ll need to do some backtracking if you’re a player that has to completely 100% a game. Taking some time to explore will definitely reap benefits like heart items which increase your life bar or weapons upgrades as well. You’ll also need to backtrack simply because some items won’t be accessible until you’ve acquired a specific item or weapon. For an old man like me, this was the toughest thing to deal with since my memory isn’t what it used to be. At least the map is easily reached by simply pressing the Touchpad on the DualShock 4. This is also how you’ll check your inventory and switch between weapons and you can even assign a quick-select weapon to both L3 and R3, which comes in REALLY handy in a couple of specific instances.

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Controls are tight and dead-on, especially the jumping. They even work well whether you use the analog stick or the D-pad which is rare. Everything feels natural and the learning curve is very comfortable. The best part is the sense of exploration in every aspect of what’s available. You’ll quickly get immersed in the experience and I guarantee that you’ll zip past many hours without realizing it. Also nice is the fact that there always seems to be a save point close to a nasty area or boss battle. This is a very good thing!

… don’t write this one off …
One addition that will excite those hardcore gamers out there is the SpeedRun Mode, catering specifically to those that try to set the quickest time on the Internet. The mode eliminates any story elements and some of the randomly generated items as well. It was a good move to add a specific mode for this and it looks like plenty of gamers are already putting it to good use.

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Visuals:
Haters of Indie games, please do yourself a favor and don’t write this one off. On the surface the visual style is decidedly “retro”, but unlike many other games like this, Mr. Happ didn’t simply adhere to a specific visual style. Even though it’s not a bad thing, it’s exciting to me that he also didn’t choose to stick to the technical constraints of a specific retro console like many other games do. The bosses especially show so much more detail and color than what these self-imposed constraints would allow. You’ll see more than a hundred segments, all animating separately, with a nice color contrast to the level designs. The boss battles actually remind me more of something from the PlayStation and Sega Saturn days, which really takes me back.

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Audio:
The audio design is so much more than anyone would probably expect and it’s fantastic. The standout is truly the soundtrack though which I’ve actually bought for myself. It’s one of my favorite soundtracks of 2015 so far and it’ll probably stay on that list all year.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

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Conclusion:
Axiom Verge is a refreshing game that exceeds every expectation I could possibly have. It’s a great blend of retro and the more modern and it never gets pretentious or impossible. The learning curve and difficulty progression mesh perfectly while never holding the player back in the process.

The farther you get into the game, the more impossible it will seem that one person created the entirety of Axiom Verge because it’s so incredibly polished. I always felt like the Metroid series hit its pinnacle on the SNES. I’ve always been a sucker for 2D platform adventures like this and Axiom Verge not only captures that feel but takes it even farther than we’ve ever gone before.

Don’t miss this one, it’s an instant classic.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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