I was pretty salty when Metroid: Samus Returns was not released for the Nintendo Switch. As you know, I have 20 years of gaming to catch up on, and I wanted a meaty modern metroidvania. Metroid Prime 4 is at least a couple of years away, and I didn’t want to buy a Nintendo 3DS to just play a metroidvania game. I was glad that Axiom Verge for the Nintendo Switch dropped a few days ago, and I’ve sunk in enough hours into this game for me to write down my thoughts. Read on for my Axiom Verge review!
A Trip To Sudra
Aviom Verge follows Trace, a scientist who, after an accident, finds himself in the strange world of Sudra. He is lost and powerless, and by exploring the world’s different areas, he finds himself with an ever-growing arsenal. The world of Sudra grows increasingly weird and glitchy – as in the random glitches you’d get on your dusty NES/SNES cartridges – and it is up to Trace to figure out what the hell is going on and how to get out of this situation.
Visually, Axiom Verge takes so much inspiration from Super Metroid: the art cops so much from the 16-bit graphics from the SNES’ heyday. The transition when you jump into a tunnel into the next room is exactly the same as well. Initially, even the enemies are similar – there are the small critters that crawl over ledges that you can easily shoot down. Also, when you start for the first time, like in the original Metroid, you are forced to run to the left to pick up a power-up to be able to proceed to the rest of the world.
You can say that Axiom Verge wears its inspirations on its sleeve. Maybe a little too much. In a sea of uninspired games that substitute 8/16-bit graphics for “personality,” you’d think that’s a bad thing. But if you’ve got a game that replicates so much of what made Super Metroid so good, it doesn’t matter.
An Ever-Expanding Arsenal
You start with a standard pea shooter gun and you slowly upgrade it over the course of your exploration. You’ll find different power-ups for the gun and your skills. Soon you’ll find a drill to burrow in Sudra’s rocks and a gun to glitch out areas and enemies. These two skills are important as you’ll be able to explore more of the world and uncover more secrets as you go along.
Axiom Verge follows the typical metroidvania formula – go in an area, try to find a way out, look for power-ups to enable you to move on to the next area, fight a boss every now and then, go back to the areas you left with your new power-ups, look for secrets, rinse and repeat. The map in Axiom Verge is intricate; yet I don’t find myself getting lost. I didn’t have a hard time figuring out where I am, where I have to go, and if I need to backtrack.
Controls are responsive, and I didn’t have a hard time landing Trace on specific platforms in the middle of jumps and drops. I have an issue with the Nintendo Switch on handheld mode, however, as the joy-cons don’t have a d-pad. Navigating and jumping with the left analog stick is such a pain. At least I have my trusty 8bitdo NES30 Pro controller to help me out during those tricky areas.
Time to Get Lost
So is Axiom Verge worth picking up for the Nintendo Switch? I’d say yes, if you love metroidvanias and 16-bit games. It proclaims its Super Metroid influence a little too proudly, and I honestly wouldn’t have picked this up if I could get the SNES game for the Switch right now, but I believe Axiom Verge manages to create its own distinct identity. Axiom Verge lends itself well for those times you just want to get lost in a game. Despite a couple of issues with controls in handheld mode, I’d say you’d love playing Axiom Verge for the Switch, as it looks gorgeous in handheld mode. If portability is a big plus for you, the Switch version lets you get through a couple of areas when you’re in the middle of a commute.