Start Date: January 21, 2016
End Date: January 27, 2016
I’ve never been much of a computer gaming, preferring to stick to the familiarity and user-friendliness of my precious consoles. But the running theme of 2016, so far, has been a deep dive into the well of Steam games that I’ve amassed over the past couple years via Humble Bundles and whatnot. When my friend Rich kindly gave me an old Xbox controller recently, that meant I could expand my horizons beyond games with simple point-and-click interfaces and actually use the computer to play games that require, like, walking around and stuff. Games like Axiom Verge.
It would be accurate to describe Axiom Verge as a Metroidvania game. It would be more accurate to describe it as a fucking Metroid game. I’ve played plenty of things which borrow from Metroid, but I’ve never seen anything this blatantly shameless about it. I mean, just look at this shit:
The only time Axiom Verge isn’t ripping off Metroid is when it’s ripping off Rygar…
…or Bionic Commando:
But mostly just Metroid. The big difference is that real Metroid games have memorable environments that make their huge, sprawling maps less daunting. “Where can I use my newly acquired bombs?” you might ask yourself while playing a Metroid game. “Oh, I remember there was a bombable wall in that vertical room a little bit west of the room with all the wasp monsters. I’ll make my way back there!” This is not the case in Axiom Verge, where the areas are so bland and indistinguishable from each other that finding new passages usually requires a tedious mix of blind exploration and dumb luck.
Another difference is that the Metroid games have simple but effective narratives, while Axiom Verge‘s story is an incomprehensible, overcomplicated sci-fi mess that involves cloning, time travel, and giant creepy heads:
In spite of all these complaints, I can’t say I didn’t have a fun time playing this game. It’s pretty much Metroid, after all, and it’s done competently. It even manages to show a little bit of creativity by introducing a bunch of weapons and items that are wholly different from anything that’s ever appeared in the Metroid series. These include:
-A ton of different guns which all do different things, including one that shoots three lines of bullets like the one you get by grabbing the in Contra.
-A gun which allows you to “glitch” enemies, to varying effect. Sometimes this does nothing, sometimes it makes the enemies weaker, and sometimes it turns dangerous foes into useful tools.
-The ability to “phase” through walls and doors
-My favorite: A little bug-like drone which you can send through small spaces to do reconnaissance for you. Later, you even get the ability to warp yourself to the drone’s location, allowing you to completely bypass obnoxious areas.
The game is available on Steam and Playstation 4, for $20. That’s a hefty chunk of change, but what it comes down to is that if you are a fan of Metroid and want more of it, you’ll enjoy this game. In spite of its aggravating lack of variety and originality, it’s a well-made, fun and challenging cover version. Especially when you consider that the entire thing was created by one dude.
Good job, Tom Happ – your first effort is a solid C+. I look forward to seeing what you do next.
To the Moon