Axiom Verge 2 review
Axiom Verge 2 is the follow-up to the original Axiom Verge from Tom Happ, a now-classic Metroidvania from 2015. The sequel switches things up in a pretty dramatic fashion, expanding the Axiom Verge universe in major ways. The game was recently shadow dropped during a Nintendo Indie Showcase in August 2021 and fans of the original were sent into a frenzy having waited 6 years for the sequel.
Axiom Verge was set in a dark world and primarily you’d navigate and explore with the Axiom Disruptor. This was a gun that doubled up as a hacking device allowing you to open up new parts of the game world. This time around the Disruptor is nowhere to be seen, however has been replaced with a suite of tools that are no less fun to use.
One thing that struck me when I first started playing was the look and feel. This is much brighter and more vibrant than the first Axiom verge, mainly thanks to the snow and ice setting you start out with. The pixel art is beautiful as always, and it’s hard to imagine one person alone creating this whole game. Although Axiom Verge 2 is quite different in terms of gameplay and look, the game manages to retain the feel of a game in the Axiom Verge universe.
In regards to the story, you are a human who’s been teleported to an Alien world. When you first arrive you notice the killer drones flying about the place and you meet an NPC as well as read notes that describe a massive war between two civilizations. The game opens up with a story of a big company in control of a key computing technology, which grows beyond control. Their leader unfortunately dies and the company falls into disarray. Trouble starts brewing in a remote, Antarctic location and you set off to investigate. You are Indra Chaudhari, a billionaire CEO, trying to locate her daughter. When you get to Antarctica you get thrown through a portal, and the adventure begins.
This is where the fun starts to begin, as you start to explore the snow-covered location, filled with killer robots. When you land you don’t have much but you’ll spend the first few hours picking up some useful tools including a pickaxe, boomerang, and a hacking device, plus the ability to use a little droid. Inspired by Super Metroid there’s plenty of secrets to find with hidden areas. Rather than roll into a little ball like Samus would, we have our droid, which is a nice way of dealing with a similar problem.
At its core, Axiom Verge 2 is a 2D Metroidvania with platforming, exploring, and combat, however, the combat is very different from the original game. Axiom Verge was very focused on gunplay, but Axiom Verge 2 is more focused on melee weapons. The first thing you pick up is a pickaxe, and then shortly after that, you get a boomerang. Something about the 2D gameplay and the boomerang reminded me of The Goonies on the NES, but maybe The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past is another comparison. It’s a big change from the first game for sure and a welcome one. It’s pretty risky if you think about it. Imagine Link turning up in a Legend of Zelda with a gun?!?
The combat is challenging too. One minute you’ll be fighting little flying drones, and you’ll turn a corner and a huge massive mini-boss or boss will be waiting for you. The detail is incredible on these boss fights in terms of pixel art and animation, and the mechanics are good fun. You’re going to be using a combination of attacks, whether it be up close and personal with the pickaxe or slightly at range with the boomerang.
The exploration in Axiom Verge 2 is excellent, and perhaps the star of the show. There are distinct biomes, plus a series of bosses and mini-bosses, and each area fills unique in terms of the game world you are inhabiting. One excellent feature of the game is the parallel world you can hop into. This isn’t a new concept, it was very successfully done in A Link To The Past, but here it’s executed very well. The worlds are distinct and rich, brimming with detail, and are separate playspaces, rather than simple reskins.
This parallel world is known as the Breach and you spend much of your time exploring as your little drone, which is an ability you pick up not too far into the game. The Breach offers up a very smart way to solve puzzles, working in tandem with the robotic drone. Exploration is great when you can freely navigate around, however, there are moments where ‘what to do next’ isn’t the most obvious thing, and the game can feel like it’s fighting against you. Don’t give in though as progression itself is very rewarding, as are the abilities upgrades when you do finally burst through a barrier.
It’s worth shouting out the graphics and audio of this game. The pixel art is great. It’s retro in look and feels by nature, but it’s similar to Narita Boy where it’s like HD Pixel art. You certainly wouldn’t find this on the NES back in the day. The music too is wonderful. It reminded me of 80s Sci-Fi like the original Total Recall and other movies of that era.
Axiom Verge 2 is a fantastic Metroidvania, and it’s interesting to see a sequel released which is so different from its predecessor. I can’t remember another franchise where this happens, especially given the success of the original Axiom Verge. This sequel certainly has been worth the wait and I’d recommend jumping in and checking it out.
Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games
Platform: PC, PlayStation & Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 11 August 2021