Steam Tip: Axiom Verge is a retro Metroidvania that never stops surprising
Glitchy in a good way
New Steam release Axiom Verge is most definitely inspired by classic Nintendo franchise Metroid.
Not just because you wander about a labyrinthine map in the hope of finding upgrades that will help you bypass obstacles elsewhere in the world. It's also in the rich sci-fi setting, and the isolating atmosphere.
But this is no clone. It also borrows from other retro games, nicking the grappling hook from Bionic Commando and a gun or two from Rygar. And it focuses on Contra-esque gunplay, with a huge arsenal of weapons.
Plus, it has ideas all of its own. There's a terrific system where you can cause enemies to glitch out - much like what happens if a NES cartridge isn't pushed in properly or you faff about with a Game Genie.
Glitchy enemies have new properties - maybe making them docile, or helpful, or extra deadly - meaning you need to experiment and learn about the hidden properties of this game.
And the game hides secret distorted areas, but they're distributed about the world randomly for each player - the only way to guarantee secrecy and surprise in a post-web world.
But even if Axiom Verge was just a Metroid clone, it'd still be impressive for being one of the few games to really get that formula right.
While many modern Metroidvanias hold your hand and tell you where to go, Axiom is deliberately old school in shunning tutorials and navigational aids on your map.
You'll need to figure things out for yourself, and it feels amazing when you succeed and stumble upon some new area of the world.
You get a slight bonus in this Steam version, though: you can lay down a couple map markers to remind you of places to return to. Hey, it saves breaking out the graph paper and pencil.
Axiom Verge also feels fantastically fluid to play, it's got some of the most interesting upgrades since Samus squeezed herself into a morph ball, and that music. That music! So good.
Axiom Verge is uber brilliant, then. And if you missed it on PS4, don't let it pass you buy now it's on Steam. You can get it on PC, Mac, and Linux for £14.99.