Review: Axiom Verge (PSV/PSTV)

2016 Golden Minecart Awards:

  • Best Cross-Buy (PS Vita)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4 (Review)
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox One
  • Wii U
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • 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 (177 MB)
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

A year later and this beautiful little game comes to PlayStation Vita. A year ago Glenn reviewed this game and gave it an incredibly well deserved 9.5. A year later and I still agree with that score.

I’ll try to refrain from repeating words that have already been stated by the previous review. Instead, I will simply let you know if this game is worth visiting (re-visiting) on the Vita. If you haven’t played it at all… seriously, what the hell?

Gameplay:
Metroidvania… but in the most sincere, honest, original, excellent sort of way. Only two games in this self-defined genre have impressed me as much, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

The gameplay holds up beautifully on the Vita, with the left trigger serving the original purpose of L1 on the PlayStation 4. Specifically, this locks your character in place so that you can shoot in different directions without moving. Controls are also very intuitive and tight, leaving little room for mistakes that aren’t your own.

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The touch screen takes the place of otherwise unavailable buttons. The quick select buttons are replaced by touch area on the bottom corners of the screen and the map is accessible via the Vita’s Select button.

Ultimately, this title proves once again that, gameplay wise, an indie title can hang with the big boys. And in cases like Axiom Verge, it can even destroy the entertainment value of titles with bigger budgets.

… made the transition smoothly …
Not only is this absolute love letter to side-scrolling adventure games, it also introduces its own “hacking” system into the mix, bringing an added gameplay element to the genre. If this were twenty years ago, those added elements might appear like actual glitches. But that’s the point: you are breaking code in a computer game that takes place within a computer.

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Visuals:
Aside from the smaller screen presenting some squinting potential, all of the visuals from the PlayStation 4 version have made the transition smoothly. The screen really didn’t affect gameplay, and this is coming from someone who wears glasses. It simply took a moment to get used to, since I completed the entire game on a sixty-five inch screen.

For those who have not played the game or read our review of the PS4 version, the way you unlock new areas in this game is by basically “hacking” the code of the computer world. Since this is a retro inspired game, the “glitching” is represented in ways that, to us older gamers, would indicate a faulty or dirty cartridge.

Numbers and letters show up where graphics should be and areas of the environment flash constantly. This was an issue that used to be huge during the NES era. It’s a brilliant use of retro graphics not seen before, not on purpose at least.

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Audio:
Once again retro-tastic. There is a familiarity here. It sounds like something you’ve heard before, but with an added element that brings it into this century. The music is amazing, at times sounding like glitching beeps and clicks, or pushing you through the adventure with great movements and memorable tunes. I’ve left the opening screen running for a few minutes just to hear the badass intro music.

… virtually flawless …
The weapon sound effects also fall into a familiar territory, but one associated with retro computer sound effects. Some of it reminds me of effects used in the TRON movies. Sound took no shortcuts in the migration to the Vita.

There is a very subtle nod to an old NES game in Axiom Verge. Before you fight a boss, you enter a room with a large symbol on the wall. The visual is an indicator that the boss is next door. However, you can hear a very 8-bit sounding growl of the enemy, repeating itself. This was last heard in Tecmo’s Rygar on NES.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
I’m going to slightly disagree with Glenn Percival’s score for this one. I completed this game on PlayStation 4 last year. During that time, I could not put the damn thing down. Such an addicting attribute is usually only experienced on games like Uncharted and God of War.

Axiom Verge is virtually flawless, and if you love Metroid and Castlevania, you owe this game to yourself, regardless of your feeling towards independent games. It has everything from the crunchy electronic 8-bit tunes, to the masterful execution of a world within a computer, complete with nostalgic visuals of the glitches of old.

For those considering this on the Vita, you are well taken care-of. This is a great port that holds up wonderfully.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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