Normally when I ask to review a game it is because there is something special about its premise that will lure me in. On the surface, Soul Axiom has an interesting concept where you play through various “lives” that have been uploaded into a Matrix-style world/mainframe called Elysia that promises its users a chance to relive their favorite memories forever. Something underneath, however, is corrupting the system and it is up to you to stop it. I came in expecting some flaws but hoping for solid gameplay and a good story. Unfortunately, this port is very similar to a soul moving into Elysia. It seems something was corrupted in its transition from PC to Wii U.
This may or may not be the cover of an 80’s metal band album.
The first thing that you notice is the weird menu choices for the game. Instead of pressing A for making selections, you press B which is completely backwards for Wii U games. It may initially seem like a minor issue but that lack of attention to detail tipped me off to how this port was created. Hastily and without thinking about the player. After I set-up my options and pressed the wrong button about 3 or 4 times I opened up the game.
As my character woke up in the game I noticed how generally low-quality the graphics were. Normally I don’t like to focus too much about graphical capabilities in a game but nearly everything in this port looks rudimentary opposed to stylized.I thought maybe this was a problem with Soul Axiom’s art direction itself but when I go check out how the game looks on PC there is a massive difference. There are a few moments of aesthetic excellence where you see a stylized angel wreaking havoc as you play or the overworld’s Tron-esque design but mostly the game is mundane. There are plenty of times where lights will shine through walls or textures will look unfinished. Once again, admittedly small issues that are quite telling.
Great looking locales exist in the game, but are extremely rare.
For the first 5 or so hours, the gameplay and story are just as drab. The controls do not help this. I’ll be honest, I have a penchant for immediately giving up on entire series for having poor controls. For instance, I won’t play The Witcher series because the controls make me want to punch my computer. Soul Axiom for the Wii U has the worst controls of a first-person game I have played in a long time. There is a problem when the most complicated and challenging thing to do on a game is walking up a spiral staircase which seems to be everywhere in the first few hours. Why would the developer do something this cruel if the controls are this bad? Oh right, it was made for a mouse and keyboard, not the Gamepad.
After a while things do get more interesting if you are content losing an afternoon shoveling through poor controls and puzzles that are no more difficult than walking around and picking up things. Once you dig a bit deeper into the core of the game and you are finally allowed to access more complete memories of the characters you play, things can occasionally get witty and even fun! There are some particularly interesting puzzles in an ice-themed level where you must match constellations to various horoscope symbols and even a Zelda-esque puzzle on a giant frozen chessboard. Unfortunately, the framerate nearly freezes in this room because it would drop down to a few frames a second.
The biggest problem with Soul Axiom for the Wii U is that these quality moments start happening way too far into the game where most people would have simply given up by then. That initially forgivable problem is then compounded by the various missteps in presentation, graphics, and controls to make it a lasting, worthwhile experience. While the initial premise of the game is interesting, the game never lives up to the initial concept. There is sadly too much going against this port to suggest a purchase unless you need some first-person puzzle action in your life and don’t have a PC.
I haven’t seen lava textures this bad since the 90’s. Most textures are extremely low resolution.
Gameplay 4 out of 10 – Too little, too late in the game. Generally, simple puzzles and poor platforming elements combine to make the gameplay an underwhelming experience.
Graphics 3 out of 10 – Rudimentary models and textures that occasionally appear to be pulled from a late-90’s Virtual C++ SDK I once owned. I’m looking at you glowing lava floor… I preferred playing this game on my Gamepad because it masked many issues. Glitchy effects are nice, though.
Story 6 out of 10 – Overall the plot and story can be interesting if you are patient. The ending(s) are quite entertaining.
Controls 1 out of 10 – Abysmal controls not suited for the Wii U.
Audio 5 out of 10 – It has sound. It has music. Nothing special or negative. It simply is there.
Hand powers are not as handy as you think.
Soul Axiom for Wii U is a rough port of an interesting first-person puzzler that just doesn’t quite live up to its potential. The combination of frustrating controls, poor graphics that don’t live up to the PC version, and intentionally slow storytelling may be too much for anyone that is not a huge fan of the first person puzzle genre.