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E3 2014 – Hands-on – Axiom Verge

In the heart of the Sony booth, nestled between the likes of Destiny, LittleBigPlanet 3 and The Order 1886, two demo stations stood with an interesting looking pixel-art title were set up, often with a modest crowd stood round it. Watching everyone with intent was Thomas Happ, the sole developer behind the upcoming PS4/Vita title Axiom Verge, a Metroid game in all but name.

The demo I got hands on with started at the beginning of the game, where you awaken in a pod, with no concept of where you are, or how you got there. It looks like a Mega Drive game on steroids, with every pixel oversized and pin-sharp. It’s a dark, dystopian art style that really caught the eye. Destroy an enemy, however, and the carefully constructed design explodes into a semi-3D burst of simulated blood and gore. It really is a fantastic looking retro style game, and it can happily sit alongside the likes of Fez in terms of “new-gen” 16-bit inspired games.

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It’s impossible to play Axiom Verge and not draw comparisons to Metroid and Super Metroid, and it’s not something the creator shies away from. In fact, in his latest blog entry, Happ says that Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime even took a trip to his booth and drew comparisons to the classic Nintendo franchise. The game handles very well, with platforming and shooting feeling solid, and entirely skill-based. If you die in Axiom Verge, it’s your fault.

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Dig a little deeper into the game, however, and you start to peel back the layers of its reality. Axiom Verge embraces the time honoured tradition of finding glitches that impact gameplay. It even brings in a “glitch gun”, which will turn certain enemies into other objects, as well as opening up new areas for you to explore. Glitched areas are going to be procedurally generated throughout the story, which definitely seems like it will lend itself to multiple playthroughs and extended gameplay experiences.

There are some very neat tricks involved with Axiom Verge, and it’s definitely a game that should be on people’s radars. If you’re after a new Metroid style experience, it’s most certainly one to look into for its release on PS4 and Vita in early 2015.

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