Review - Axiom Verge

Another late to the party review - sorry, I'm trying to catch up. Axiom Verge sees science go wrong, again! Perhaps Donald Trump is right, and just scared of the cosmos ending or being eaten by inter-dimensional goblins?

Anyway, waking up in some creaky alternate reality, our hero Trace is this week's hapless scientist in need of getting out of his own experiment-gone-wrong mess. He certainly wouldn't last a minute without some of the neat weapons left lying around this Alien-esque landscape.  But this isn't really much of a shooter, more a game of trial-and-logic.

Setting out, inspired to survive by some guidance from a disembodied voice, he soon finds notes about the horrors that are going on in this strange place, along with some increasingly tough denizens, although they are more for show than anything.

Axiom Verge isn't a game to rush through, every room, accessed through airlock doors that denote progress, looks like a piece of fine pixel art, with subtle detail and love crafted into every corner.

Doing his best to bring back memories of NES games, Tom Happ has done a great job creating the visual style, which looks awesome on the Vita's small OLED screen, thanks to the excellent port by Sickhead Games. I can't imagine it looking as good on a big LCD!

A map helps remind you of where you might need to head, while the right thumbstick cycles through the various weapons, with the triggers and areas of the touchscreen used to activate special weapons or effects.

And, naturally, you'll soon discover that some places are inaccessible without the right weapon or skill, as the game lurches into Metroidvania territory. The first example is the Nova shot that can explode some distance from you, to trigger out-of-reach switches and so on.

This all necessitates a fair bit of running back and forth, and when you get the sneakier equipment, then you need to explore all the rooms carefully to find out how you can change the environment. There are probably enough save points, but it always feels like you are miles from one, just when you need it.

Given all the love for the game, I was hoping that Axiom Verge would be a near perfect experience, but there are too many easy ways to zap the bad guys, even the bosses without ever really feeling under threat. As soon as you pick up enough health upgrades, then dying rarely seems an option, once you've learned their patterns.

Fortunately, the rest of the game from the score to every oozing pixel provides plenty of menace and threat. And to think its all the work of one person is hellishly impressive. Even if there isn't huge replay value, bar some secret rooms and weapons for completionists, Axiom Verge's icon will sit on my classics page with Risk of Rain, TxK, Fez, Spelunky and other indie essentials as games never to be deleted.

Score: 9/10
More reviews
Price: £14.99 (PSN, currently £7.39 on sale)
Developer: Thomas Happ (port by Sickhead)
Progress: Tooled up