Right off the bat, the most impressive thing about this game is that it was developed by one guy, who did all of the coding, art, sound and music for the game. One guy! I’ve never heard of Tom Happ before, but he did a great job here. Once you’ve played it for a while and realise how complex the game is, the feat becomes even more impressive.
As for what kind of game it is, well, it’s a 2D platformer. The type where you progress through the game, beat enemies and bosses, acquire new weapons and tools and abilities that will let you access areas you couldn’t before. “Metroidvania” is the term someone coined to describe it.
In Axiom Verge, you assume the role of a scientist named Trace who is caught in an experiment gone wrong and finds himself teleported to an alien world, a bit like Lester Chaykin in Another World. Unlike in Another World, however, Trace has plenty of conversations with weird, cybernetic-seeming entities, who tell him that they are barely clinging to life and need his help. Trace agrees, more because he has no other choice than out of any kind of altruism. As he goes along, he’ll learn more of the situation that makes it look like there’s another side to the story.
At the start, you have nothing but a simple gun, a tiny health bar and a relatively direct path to take. You’ll be able to see there are other places you can’t access yet. They may be blocked off by switches you can see, but can’t reach, ledges that are beyond your jumping height, or even areas of the game that appear to be corrupted – like what would happen when the tileset files of old DOS games got corrupted – but don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that. You’ll see why.
After you beat the first boss, you’ll acquire your first new gun, which allows you to activate certain switches that were out of your reach. Now you’ll be able to reach the next boss, after which you’re rewarded with a rock drill that lets you drill through certain kinds of tiles, and even has some uses against certain types of enemies; then you’ll get a sort of hacking beam that de-corrupts certain corrupt areas you couldn’t pass before, and also has interesting effects on some enemies… and so it carries on.
Some of the highlight tools include a little remote-controlled drone that looks like a flea, a lab coat that lets you teleport through walls one tile thick, a grappling hook, a gun that shoots projectiles that bounce off walls, and a gun that shoots a web of green plasma.
Fans of the Metroid games would be well advised to check it out. Or if you’re just looking for something deep and absorbing with an otherworldly atmosphere, you could do worse. It’s available on PS4 at the moment, and it’s due out on Steam today, as well as the PS Vita at some point.