Axiom Verge is solely created by Tom Happ, a gaming industry veteran who has worked on a plethora of previous PC and console releases. He started Axiom Verge back in March of 2010, mostly working on it as a side project in his free time. He is solely responsible for the art direction, coding, game design, and music. All of this was important information to consider when I played the first segment of the game.
Unlike other titles, there is a cohesiveness within Axiom Verge that you can’t ignore. Inspirations from the NES-era bleed through the overall presentation and mechanics. From the moody title screen that screams Metroid to the Ninja Gaiden-esque cutscene that begins the game and sets up the plot, all of the elements mesh to create a familiar, yet fresh experience.
The spacious, dark atmosphere instantly brings Super Metroid to mind. The pulsating, synthesizing sounds add to the vibe of solitary desolation. Exploration functions equally as well, navigating rooms and solving environmental puzzles. Within the first few minutes, the game teases you with unreachable areas. Veterans of the Metroidvania genre will know that future upgrades and items will allow access to these areas eventually.
In the vertical slice I tired, Axiom Verge felt like a dream to play. The control scheme harkens back to Contra; particularly you can shoot in all eight directions (while crouched or standing) and can lock your character in place for stationary shooting. Jumping reminds me of Mega Man in that the longer you hold down the button, the higher you jump. Platforming feels tight and effortless, and blasting through enemies is fun.
From what I was able to play in the first build, there were four weapons to attain and one boss to fight. The first weapon you receive, the “Axiom Disruptor,” is your standard primary rifle that fires continuous shots in all eight directions. The next weapon, the “Nova,” fires purple bombs across the screen that can be triggered to detonate. The resulting explosion can be used to hit locks that will open doors. The “Multi-Disruptor” fires three projectiles, à la Contra’s spread shot, and the “Kilver” erupts with a concentrated, close-quarters electricity blast that can go through walls to also trigger locks.
It took about a hour to finish my first playthrough of this small slice of the game. Recently, Happ partnered with industry legend Dan Adleman to promote Axiom Verge. In a possibly unprecedented PR move, they plan to release a small piece of it every month until launch to provide ample time for journalists to digest it. So, check back on MONG for continued coverage of this promising indie title in the months to come.
Axiom Verge is currently slated for release on PlayStation 4 and Vita in Spring 2015.
Elijah Oguma is an associate writer for MONG and is truly a Middle of Nowhere Gamer on Oahu, Hawaii. You can follow him on Twitter.