Before I get into this, it should be noted that I never played Super Metroid or really any Metroidvanias before so the nostalgia doesn’t do anything for me.
So, coming into this game, and this style of game, relatively fresh – how does it stack up?
I’d say Axiom Verge is, above all things, an impressive feat, having been entirely created by just one person. However, as a game, the level of enjoyment you’ll get out of it is, in my opinion, very much rooted in nostalgia. If you enjoyed Super Metroid, or any Metroidvania for that matter, you’ll probably love this. If you’re not fussed about those games, then this probably won’t appeal as much.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The general aesthetic of the game is very good. The colour palette is very 80s, and it has a few really nice touches such as “intentional” glitching, cool weapon design, and interesting bosses.
However, some of the level designs and standard enemy designs are a little inconsistent in tone and style. My assumption is that some of the inconsistencies can be put down to the fact that one person made this game, and likely didn’t have the luxury of additional artistic resources that larger game studios might enjoy. I know working alone is not exactly a rarity for independent developers, but for a game this size, it’s completely understandable that there would be some inconsistencies here and there.
The soundtrack for this game might be the best thing about it. It fits the tone of the game perfectly and the aesthetic (apart from those inconsistencies mentioned earlier), so full marks there. And that goes for the other sound elements too – they all work really well.
It’s when we get to the gameplay that the offer isn’t quite as strong for me. I understand that this game is intended to be retro, and a tribute to Super Metroid and other Metroidvanias, but I would have liked to have seen some upgrades to modernise the gameplay and improve the user experience. After all, gaming has come a long way in the last 30 years.
I’m talking about having a full range of motion when aiming your weapon. In Axiom Verge, you can only pick 8 directions, so there’s a lot of stopping, waiting around, and “shooting-at-where-the-enemy-is-going-to-be”, which I feel really hurts the pacing of the gameplay.
A lot of this game requires exploring different rooms to find out how to progress in the game. And there is a lot of running back and forth. You’ve found the way to the next section of the game, but something’s blocking you? Best check a bunch of other rooms until you find the item that will let you through
For me, playing this game felt like doing a lot of little fetch quests, and they are definitely not my favourite thing in the world. You have to keep running back and forth with enemies regularly respawning so it became a bit of a grind and I was enjoying the game less than I thought I would be when I first booted it up. An autosave function when you enter a room would have been a nice touch, too.
I totally understand that a lot of my gripes with it might be exactly what fans of Metroidvanias love, but for me, Axiom Verge ended up being a frustrating game that, with the addition of certain modern gameplay elements, could have been great.
Love Super Metroid? Check out a different perspective on Axiom Verge!