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Axiom Verge Hands-On Preview

by William Schwartz

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There have been a fair number of games that I’ve been able to preview hands on from games that build on nostalgia to games that really bring something new to the fray. Axiom Verge does both of these things.

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You would be forgiven if you jumped into the game and thought you were playing something that was on the NES or the Super Nintendo. The game’s art-style and gameplay is purposefully designed to evoke memories of the original Metroid and Castlevania games, whilst incorporating Contra-style shooting gameplay mechanics. It’s sort of an all-star mash-up of games from the late 1980s.

Axiom Verge is a game being developed by industry veteran Tom Happ. Yes, it’s a one man game, he’s doing the coding, the artwork, the music, the everything. In the game, you play as the character Trace, a scientist who dies in the opening cut-scene, which itself is reminiscent of the way cut-scenes were done in the Ninja Gaiden game (games of the 80s unite!) and transported into this bizarre world where a mysterious voice gives him one objective: Survive.

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In the game, you will find lot’s of familiar things which will get your nostalgia detectors all tingly. Boss fights, health bars, platforming and lots of mindless killing of the random fauna that inhabit this weird world. The game isn’t particularly difficult, but neither is it particularly easy either. It’s like those old NES games: If you’re patient and figure out the patterns, you can get through the game without too much trouble, but if you’re all jumpy and impatient, you are going to die. A lot.

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So far, it sounds like a pretty well done, but ordinary, nostalgia-invoking game. So why were Microsoft and Sony trying so hard to woo Happ into exclusivity with them, with Happ eventually opting to taking pub funding from Playstation? Axiom Verge takes the base gameplay of those 80s games you know and love and puts a new twist into every aspect.

You don’t just blindly go from room to room, you get an aforementioned map. You can plan out where you want to go and keep track of where you have been. You get different weapons and tools, a total of 40 in all, that will be useful in varying situations. For example, there is, my favorite, the laser drill. Not only is it a fantastic close-quarters weapon, but it helps you reach rooms by blowing through the walls and rocks that at first glance look sturdy and just as unbreakable as you would expect walls in 80s games to be. It turns on its head everything you’ve learnt and made habitual in those earlier games, which only helps to make Axiom Verge a novel experience.

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There are also a very large variety of different creatures looking to give you a bad day. With a total of 70 different types ranging from blue flying moth things to red slug blobs and purple wallworms with giant fangs, their varying levels of aggression and dangerousness will ensure that you will be coming up with a multitude of strategies in order to deal with them.

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Another massive part of the game is the ability to “fix” glitches in the game as, periodically, you will see those flickering blocks that in the old NES games would mean poor coding or hardware damage. However in Axiom Verge, these glitches are purposeful and you will gain the ability to mend them with the Address Disruptor tool which will then let you to continue through the game or even find secret rooms.

Exploration, combat, upgrades, variety in weapons, tools, environments and enemies are common facets of modern, big-budget triple A blockbuster titles. It just so happens that Axiom Verge incorporates all these characteristics and hides it behind an old-looking, nostalgia-driving facade. Axiom Verge has something for everyone and is a fun little game to add to your gaming wishlists for 2015.

I will leave you with a screenshot of me finally beating the boss after way too many tries.

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Axiom Verge is set to be released some time in 2015 for release on PS4, PSVita and PC.

Are you looking forward to trying out Axiom Verge? Let us know in the comments below!

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