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Review: Axiom Verge: Multiverse Edition (Nintendo Switch)By Renan At 10.02.2018 00:09

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As Super Metroid is widely considered to be the high point of the franchise's legacy, it's almost to be expected that any title paying tribute to the series would lift from the SNES classic. Axiom Verge, however, focuses its tribute on the original Metroid. While certainly an important and influential game, it hasn't managed to maintain the same level of love as its SNES sequel. It's quite clever then that Thomas Happ, Axiom Verge's lone developer, would choose an underutilised source for homage.

Happ doesn't waste any time alluding to Samus Aran's NES escapade, placing the protagonist, Trace, in an opening room that caters to anyone familiar with Metroid. Going left will reward the first proper weapon, and going right will start the adventure in earnest. While the introduction is filled with little references, it doesn't take long for the game to branch out and start punishing players expecting to coast by with pre-established notions of what to do in an 8-bit Metroidvania setting.

Every potentially familiar obstacle is met with a brand new solution that completely ignores what Samus would have done. There's no Morph Ball for Trace to transform into, nor can he Screw Attack up towards unreachable ledges. Trace also doesn't have access to traditional missiles or different types of beams to play around with. That's not to say he's lacking in weapons, though. His arsenal is far more varied than Samus' ever was, in large part thanks to the emphasis on non-linearity and exploration.

Trace is likely going to find more weapons than he actually needs by the end of any given playthrough. It's entirely possible to make it to the end with the mandatory upgrades, but these optional acquisitions vary playthroughs from person to person and encourage genuine exploration. When someone knows there's likely to be a reward in an uncharted part of the map, they are more likely to backtrack to hunt down additional goodies. The optional weapons Trace finds aren't always the strongest or most useful, but they all play wildly different from one another. The Flamethrower can pass through walls and enemies, the Lightning Gun locks onto targets and rapidly does damage, and the Tethered Charge is effectively a massive ball and chain.

While the optional weapons tend to be the most creative in practice, Trace's mandatory weapons are incredibly satisfying to use and are very well integrated into the design of the world. The Address Disruptor can corrupt or uncorrect enemies and obstacles, effectively glitching them, so Trace can make progress. His coat upgrades allow him to pass through walls, while the Remote Drone can be launched into small crevices Trace normally wouldn't be able to reach. Each area is filled with roadblocks Trace won't be able to pass through on a first run, but that just makes backtracking all the more satisfying.

It should be mentioned that backtracking is going to happen quite often over the course of the story. A map that acts as a shortcut for most of the areas is uncovered around mid-game, but teleporting across the map isn't a possibility. It's naturally frustrating reaching the end of the map and realising the next objective is on the other side of the world altogether, but the upgrades and weapons Trace gets over the course of the adventure greatly eases up any tedium found in revisiting old locations. Forcing the player to backtrack is also quite important as bosses and enemies later on can be especially challenging. By having Trace revisit past areas, he can pick up any items or upgrades he missed the first time around, making the experience going forward less stressful.

One of Axiom Verge's greatest strengths is its presentation. Aesthetically, the colour palette can come off quite harsh. Paired with the almost haunting soundtrack, several areas give off an incredibly hostile energy. At times, it truly does feel like Trace is trapped in an alien world. Enemy designs are clearly inspired by the works of H.R. Giger. Bosses often have disturbing designs that don't really sink in until proper examination. The game doesn't linger on how monsters look, but sitting down and taking them in can lead to some very nauseating realisations.

At the core of the adventure is a mystery story. Trace doesn't know where he is, why he's there, or what he's doing. Littered around the world are documents that reveal the nature of the planet he's trapped on and the history behind it. The mandatory story reveals just enough to be generally compelling, but it's these documents that shine new light and change the entire context of the adventure. It goes hand-in-hand with the gameplay, really. The main content is strong, strong enough that the game would still be good if that's all there was to it, but it's the optional content that changes how Axiom Verge feels and plays. It's exploration for the sake of exploration, and it's better for it.

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Final Score
A lesser game would have broken away from the standard Metroidvania fare by referencing [i]Super Metroid[/i] and playing out like a 2D [i]Metroid[/i] would be expected to. It wouldn't be bad, but it wouldn't be particularly special, either. [i]Axiom Verge[/i] is not a lesser game, though. It strictly pays tribute to the original NES [i]Metroid[/i], but not once does it do anything with its premise that feels derivative. Any instance of homage is quickly subverted and thrust down a path all of its own. Solutions to puzzles are genuinely creative and the overworld is filled with more optional weapons and upgrades than actually necessary for a normal playthrough, offering an incredibly rewarding, explorative experience. Challenging, creative, and endlessly endearing, [i]Axiom Verge: Multiverse Edition[/i] is the best take on the Metroidvania genre in years.

9

/10

User Comments
#1 Adam Riley (News Editor) - on 10.02.2018 at 17:42

I really struggled with this - too hard at the beginning Smilie

#2 Renan - on 10.02.2018 at 22:39

It is surprisingly very difficult in the beginning. I actually was feeling a little discouraged starting out, lol, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with it, difficulty spikes and all 

#3 Insanoflex - on 11.02.2018 at 12:01

i think this game got the forumla right where samus returns failed.

#4 Flynnie - on 11.02.2018 at 21:54

I had the Multiverse special edition pre-ordered for Switch but in the end I cancelled it. it was pretty much over double the eshop cost...that was a little bit too expensive for my liking! 

I have been wanting to play this game for a while though, I just hope it gets a discount on the eshop sometime soon! 

#5 Dragon0085 - on 12.02.2018 at 16:17

I have mixed feelings on this game, the story, idea, originality was great, but the actual platforming, the backtracking and the utter cheapness of some of the hidden items detracts.

#6 Del_Duio (guest) - on 15.02.2018 at 17:52

Gotta' disagree a little bit with the Metroidvania genre being comfortable. As somebody who's actually made a couple I'll tell you to do one correctly it requires tremendous thought and planning. Anybody can just whip up a game with a few stumble blocks to return to later, but one done correctly is very hard. My 2 cents!


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