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Axiom Verge (PC) artwork

Axiom Verge (PC) review

"Hyper Metroid."

Axiom #1:

All algorithms are universal and valid, regardless of whether they are executed.

Cognition is a sub algorithm whose behavior is to perceive properties of the parent algorithm describing it.

Any algorithm giving rise to cognitive entities will be perceived as realities by the entities described.

That is the one and only axiom in Axiom Verge.
Games bringing upon the table the questions of who we are and what to be means are art in videogame form.
Each has and is a philosophy. The philosophy is the questioning and the questions; optionally, the answering and answers as well.

Axiom Verge is one such game.
Also, it is the Super Metroid 2 Nintendo can no longer be even just hoped to make, busy as they have been for well over a decade (and will keep being) with following financial advisors’ advice and the lofty end of giving “investors” the one kind of mirth “investors” are ever in pursuit of.

The endearing welcome attitude is that not only no try is had at concealing the vast purview of the stylistical and morphological taking over from the 2D Metroid titles: contrary, it is shown off since step one in what is an artless declaration of identity and a witting acknowledgment of credit. You even save by pressing UP on the proper spots and such suitable corners of the game world, go figure, are xeroxes of Metroid savepoints.
(On the issue of AV being another Metroid the views of critics do not converge. More interestingly: Happ himself seems to share such uncertainty, veering towards yes or not in answers from different interviews.)

The second thing showing on the radar are the slick controls, settings, menus. Lone — as some rightly termed him — developer Tom Happ found the time to preoccupy himself with player needs the development teams of so-named AAA games can hardly manage to find the time to deal with. (For example: if you use a DualShock®4, you will see its button icons, and not the default Xbox controller’s, in the control settings screen as well as everywhere in-game.)

Specific points of merit comprise:

  • In a word (or two): the secrets.
    This time around, the secrets are secret. They aren’t devices of manipulative appeasement meant to feed the compliment-hungry neurology of the customer. This is no Instagram — unlike there, not everything is (to quote from Instagram’s Terms and Conditions of Use) sincere, nor is all love: secrets are secrets: the search gives a rough time.

    There is a helpful percentage-based counter which serves as a reminder that, in the face of your impression of having toiled (very) hard and done (very) well, leaving no pixel, corner, niche, unchecked, there are still as many as 15% of findings comfortably enjoying their stay where the designer placed them — id est, out of your grasp.
    The game world is stuffed with a rain of creatively devised, dedication-rewarding hidden content, and hints that hint to something, and hints that only pose as hints that hint to something.
    The cake is not wanting its (beautiful) icing of Mensa-grade riddles: in Happ’s words: “I loved the fact that if I wanted to include a puzzle that I thought no one might get for years, I could just do that.”

  • The foe totality, near-to-royal in aesthetical and behavioural design, and placement variety).

  • The 16-bit-like graphics. They… look not above median, early on. Time lets the characterfulness and quality outcrop and be apprehended.

  • The weapon arsenal.
    Arms all take turns in being the best choice across the entire game, without being subject to the typical obsolescence that so often renders early acquired ones of little use later on. Their hierarchy is horizontal, not vertical; situational, not fixed.
    The design is a mile apart from a simplistic “one right weapon per screen”. Indeed, each spot is open to multiple choices, many of them right ones each in its way, and a few more or less fruitless (or seemingly so…).
    The guns are, by Happ’s very words, “puzzles”, in that each requires usage and pondering — the scope of its possibilities to be found out, most featuring a second dimension of utility behind the immediate one.
    A handful are homages to staples of 8-bit action games (such as Star Control).

  • The deceitfully cliched storyline is employed as a template for saying deep things in a fascinating wise.
    Its formal commonplaceness does but highlight the originality of the actual message.

A point of weakness might be the boss fights.
They are stress resilience (rather than reflex- or reasoning-based) tests: it is a quick process to get what to do and success is attained performing the relevant actions a multiplicity of times rather than pulling off acrobatics just a few times.
Happ has let out his disagreement over the Metroid series’ approach to boss battles, whose nature is firstly of puzzles where figuring out what to do is the core of the task. Indeed, the weak points are apparent to a fault here. The manual difficulty of the fights is far from outstanding, and on a scale of ten I’d rate it 7 at highest (on hard mode). Bosses are easily one of the game’s less shining facets. It is unthinkable to even attempt a comparison with the boss encounters of a La Mulana. AV’s large foes are friendly presences in disguise; entertainers met on the course of a tough trip rather than player-resistant barriers to break through.

The electronic music summons up prized 8-bit memories, and minding how Happ is not a musician by trade one loses any proclivity to criticize sternly; nevertheless, the sound — safe for the sound effects, which are fine — goes from a baseline of mediocrity to a ceiling of sufficiency, the thought of a re-release with a professionally authored soundtrack as titillating as it is utopian.

Forceful in the compartment of meaning (you want to oversee even the rare instances of cultural-market-of-the-day-friendly moralizing, before the zeal and depth of the rest), great as a game to play, the Super Metroid follow-up which Nintendo could not make, Thomas Happ did make, as a hobby over a couple years (five), and to him praise and gratitude shall go for this individual 16-bit-like amalgamation of exploration, subtle perplexity, colour, challenge and philosophy, blessed with the kind of beauty to which surrender comes spontaneous.

Axiom Verge (PC) image

bwv_639's avatar
Community review by bwv_639 (July 18, 2018)

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bwv_639 posted April 18, 2020:

About two years and a half after the game's release, Axiom Verge Making-Of Documentary came out, still on Steam.
The circa five-hour documentary has moved and inspired many a fan of the game (which is moving and inspiring itself, and much so), and it is put together with the same care as the original game, although it has to be pointed out that, as if a bit too often the case with English-speaking people making videos, they failed to imagine earthlings are there who will be unable to discern what is being said without the aid of subtitles (at least in English), which in reality there's some likelihood of happening, specially when English is spoken by people to whom it is their mother tongue (they will pronounce less clearly, and faster).

Meanwhile, Axiom Verge 2 isn't far from coming out on the Nintendo Switch. We hope it will be up to the original game's great legacy.

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Masters posted April 18, 2020:

That's fantastic news -- I didn't know a sequel had been in the works.

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