Castlevania: Symphony of The Night and any old school Metroid game set the path for the genre known as Metroidvania. It needs to be said that Axiom Verge is one massive homage to all things Metroidvania, but it's mostly a love story to Metroid itself. Axiom Verge was made solely by Tom Happ himself, an accomplishment which most likely took its toll on him, but the end result is wonderful.
Axiom Verge takes place on a strange alien world where players control a scientist by the name of Trace. Trace's goal is to help restore power to the natives of this alien world, but he has no idea where to begin or even how he got there. The natives need Trace to find and destroy the big bad named Athetos who corrupted their world with the rest of his minions. There's a twist to the story that fits well with the somber tone and twisted vibe you get from the game.
The world of Axiom Verge is separated into different color-coded zones, each with its own unique name and enemy archetypes. Enemies are particularly annoying because you can have two of the exact same opponent, but if they have different color palettes they'll have different properties in terms of attacks - It definitely keeps you on your toes. Exploration in the game is heavily advised, because you never know what path will lead you to hidden areas to get health boosts or new weaponry.
As far as weaponry goes, Axiom Verge has some of the most unique toys in any game I've ever played; for example, my favorite is a hacking gun of some kind. By holding down the right bumper, Trace will fire a continuous wave of energy that’ll "glitch" enemies and also some terrain. "Glitching" enemies is a great way to make exploration easier on yourself. Some enemies will become platforming objects, others will become friendly and attack for you, and others will even change their attack pattern or speed.
Since Axiom Verge is a 2D side scroller the controls are fairly simple. You can only go left right up or down, there's no moving into the foreground or background. There's also no dodging mechanic, so you should get comfortable with jumping and ducking as quickly as possible. Your left trigger allows you to lock your aim so you have an easier time hitting enemies who are above, or below, you at an angle. Your right trigger shoots a grapple which, obviously, lets you access hard to reach places. Your left and right bumpers bring up your weapon select and you choose said weapon with the analog stick. The entire controller is used in Axiom Verge, including the touchpad and L3/R3, but it never feels overwhelming.
Tom Happ made sure that every zone in Axiom Verge has its own tune and almost every cutscene has its own background music. The deep toned instrumental soundtrack embodies tension while you stand and plan your next move. It's less heavy metal like I expected and more suspenseful. Axiom Verge does a superb job of making a 16 Bit game blossom in an HD world. Watching the way the sprites move is like watching pixel art come to life, though you'll occasionally find those ledges that you just can't seem to find the edge of, which I expected to be honest. Axiom Verge gives off a wonderful sense of nostalgia that will remind you that games don't need to be hyper realistic or the pinnacle of graphic fidelity to be a great game.
As I said earlier, Axiom Verge is a love letter to all things Metroid, and that's what makes it so damn good. From start to finish, the game is just so captivating through its gameplay alone. The story is convoluted at first, but the further you progress the bigger picture starts to take shape. Tom Happ developed every single part of the game singlehandedly from 2010, and every part of it is perfection. I give Axiom Verge 5 TOV stars out of 5.