I won’t tip-toe around it, I’m losing faith in Nintendo. I know they’re putting all efforts into their coming-soon Switch Console, but recently they’ve left their fans out to dry. The ones suffering pretty vocally are the Metroid fans. Skipping over the Federation Force drama, it’s been six years since the last Metroid, and ten since the last generally loved one (Prime 3). Personally I don’t like 3D Metroid, however I adore the 2D games and it’s been fifteen years since the last original 2D Metroid! So Nintendo, what happens when you take too damn long to make a new Metroid? Other people start to make it.
Enter Axiom Verge, a game by indie developer Tom Happ; a man targeting people like me, 2D Metroid fans. Finally a sale came and so I bought it hoping to scratch that itch, but I found more than just a game, I also got a question.
Originality; where does it begin and where does it end?
Axiom Verge’s setup is kind of weird. The story starts as follows; scientist Trace is working in a laboratory in New Mexico. During one of his experiments an explosion occurs and well…he wakes up on an alien planet. It’s odd but a good first impression, I don’t typically think of cinematics when it comes to 2D Metroid so it’s pretty cool that Tom Happ’s game is story driven.
And then the gameplay- it’s great. Tight platforming. Precise shooting. Overall Responsive. Who doesn’t want that? It feels like you think it would, it feels like…Metroid.
There’s where my question comes into place. How much praise does Axiom Verge deserve when it so clearly owes it’s existence to another franchise? Just look at the picture above, the walls and backgrounds, the save pod and the tunnel-door on the bottom right- they just ooze Metroid atmosphere. Just replace the sprite of Trace with Samus and not many people would be able to tell the difference. In my first thirty minutes I had fun with Axiom Verge but I felt like it was too much of another product.
But then I got my first couple of upgrades.
In Super Metroid I remember being blown away by the Grapple Beam. I didn’t think such an amazing power-up could be done in a 2D platformer. That’s how I feel with a lot of Axiom Verge’s abilities. The actual weapons are hidden and aren’t needed to progress, but other gadgets like a remote drone, teleportation device and bombs are. I found myself intrigued on how my new gear could take down enemies and bosses. And I never knew there could be so many different types of guns for a 2D game.
As for the presentation itself, it’s not bad either. Some tunes got stuck in my head and I always found the scenery at least a little bit cool to look at. So let’s sum up my compliments; good Metroid feel, cool gadgets, nice scenery. Ok, not bad. But now comes all the things I didn’t like about Axiom Verge…
When it comes to these 2D games with big maps open to backtracking, I don’t go searching for 100% completion because I know I just don’t need it. I beat Axiom Verge with 48% item completion; maybe that’s why I found the game so damn hard. At the half-way point Axiom Verge became rage worthy with faster and stronger enemies, bosses that rely solely on size and insane attack patterns and tricky platforming. As I’m writing it down I’m realizing that it’s refreshing to play a game that doesn’t make you stronger just by completing the story- you need to put in extra work to get stronger in Axiom Verge.
However the difficulty is also unbalanced, some bosses (a certain bee) made me want to rip my hair out but then the next ones would be either optional or simple to defeat. The final boss was one of the easiest in the game! Not to mention that I beat two of the bosses with cheap exploits (yes, I’m bad at games). If some of the focus on gear and map size were put into the bosses I would’ve left a lot less frustrated.
If Axiom Verge was it own completely original product then I’d say it was a really good game albeit some spotty difficulty, boring story and lack of direction. But it’s not; which brings me back to my main point.
I’ll give Tom Happ props for the weapons, gear, story, even the rage-worthy bosses but that’s it. Otherwise it really looks and feels like one of my favorite games ever, Super Metroid. Some enemies have identical movements and attack patterns, and the aforementioned Grapple Beam was practically copied. Maybe I’m wrong though; maybe it’s more original than I give it credit for, or maybe it’s less.
I hate to be the guy who didn’t love Axiom Verge because it was made by just one guy who obviously has good taste in games; but I bought this game for $10 which is half-off and I’d recommend waiting another year for a $5 sale truthfully.
During my time with Axiom Verge I had some fun, some rage and some boredom. Overall it’s a decent game.
I’ve decided in my reviews I’ll leave you beautiful readers with a question in hopes to spark up interesting conversations in the comments.
In video games at least, where do you believe originality begins and ends? Some examples would help, especially if you think I’m wrong in my review of Axiom Verge.
Thanks for reading!