At the beginning of May this year DOOM took you on a nice trip through an ultra-violent version of hell. The beginning of June gives us Soul Axiom, which takes an altogether different direction. Soul Axiom will bring you to an abstract digital version of heaven, instead of blasting everything in the face with a shotgun, you will have to solve increasingly difficult puzzles to work your way through the afterlife.
The setting of the game is interesting, the souls of the recently deceased are uploaded into a program called Elysia, a computer program in which you can relive your memories, a place where your dreams become reality. It’s a surreal and abstract take on the afterlife, set in a Tron-like world. That’s where the game takes you and you will have to explore your memories to find out what happened. Each memory has a big variation on the game’s environment, a nice implementation that keeps the game interesting. Soul Axiom takes you from a space station to the jungle and even to an icy palace similar to or Antarctica, it might sound strange on paper but works really well as a video game.
Soul Axiom begins with the player falling out of the sky, and for the first few hours of the game you will have little clue as to what is going on. Over the course the game you will uncover a little bit more about what is going on; piece by piece. Unfortunately, if you haven’t progressed to the end of the game, the memories and cutscenes will be incomplete. Further into the game, you gain the ability to unlock so-called “memory fragments”. By unlocking these fragments you will be able to find out what actually happened, however, as this occurs a lot further into the game, players will have to be patient if they want to uncover the story. This can be a little problematic as it feels slightly like reading half the chapters of a book, but having to go back to read the rest once you read the end. Fortunately, Soul Axiom’s story is interesting enough to keep you going.
The one thing that spoke most to me while playing Soul Axiom is the tutorial, which has minimal hand holding. Too many games these days take you by the hand, telling you exactly what you should do and when to do it. This game does it totally opposite, you will have to find out yourself what you are supposed to do. The puzzles are fantastic, at times, cleverly made with a big amount of variation. Each puzzle gets increasingly difficult and at times, I found myself totally lost in how to solve some of them. This is exactly how a puzzle game should be, not breezing through it in a couple of hours. Some of the puzzles can be quite frustrating because there is no guidance in what you have to do, but I’d like to see that as a good thing. You have to explore and think for yourself, and not have the game explain how to solve them.
Puzzles can mainly be solved with the use of “hand powers”, powers that reminded me of the plasmids in Bioshock. Collecting powers throughout the game give you a unique talent, like phasing out object and telekinesis. This mechanic works quite well, except when you have to interact with something that is in close proximity to something else you can interact with. You have to aim carefully because it’s really easy to hit the wrong object.
The biggest problem with Soul Axiom are its graphics, they look terribly outdated. If someone told me this game was from 2009 I would have believed them based on the graphics. Seeing as the graphics are nothing spectacular I was even more surprised to experience frame rate issues. The biggest limitation is that the brightness in this game is horrendous, at times i had to set it to 100% and even turn it higher on my television to see what I was doing. It wouldn’t be the biggest problem if you could keep the setting like this, but then you would encounter a level which would force me to turn the brightness down again.
Overall, Soul Axiom is a decent puzzle game with a surreal abstract take on the after life. It offers a lot of variation in its environment to keep it interesting. The graphics and story might have its shortcoming, but the game does have a lot of great puzzles to offer. If you are able to look past lower graphics, then I would recommend checking this title out.