Soul Axiom – Wales Interactive – 1 Player – Xbox One, PS4 (version played), PC, Wii U
Soul Axiom is the sequel to the underrated indie gem Master Reboot, which we reviewed a couple of years ago, and it has to be said, the game affected me on a personal level. Its themes of death, grief and preservation were something that came along at the right time, as it was a period where I had lost someone very, very close to me, and I feel the game helped me with my grief in a sense. This in turn made the prospect of a sequel very enticing indeed. Much like its predecessor, things start rather vaguely, as if you’re in a dream and you’re suddenly aware of where you are but don’t know why or what you’re even doing. You just go with it and the blanks slowly start filling in themselves. Those who aren’t familiar with Master Reboot, may feel a bit lost at first, going from one obscure location to the other, before you realise that once again, you’re inside what is known as the Soul Cloud. The Soul Cloud is a database of memories from people that have died, which can be accessed by their loved ones to experience in a first person virtual reality. Obviously, with memories being what they are, they can be incomplete, or add something that wasn’t there. Each level is a memory accessed through a hub world, and you have to play through each one in order to progress in the game.
The levels are all specific memories of key events during that persons lifetime, and to complete the levels, there’s usually usually a series of cryptic puzzles to get through, as well as finding more detailed information of the memory in the form of cymbal bashing monkey toys (a change from the blue rubber ducks in Master Reboot). As each level is completed, there’s a short cut scene involving the fragments of plot that you’ve discovered via the little monkeys. Each level is quite unique, from ancient jungle temples, to an army base and an ice palace. A new addition to the game is the special powers the character acquires. Throughout the game new abilities are picked up, including the ability to phase objects in and out of existence, move certain objects and destroy particular elements of the environment. This means the puzzles in the game vary regularly and require you to keep switching up your abilities depending on the situation. There are many puzzles throughout, some simple and some are real noodle scratchers. While the game does give you hints as to what you need to do with regard to beating these puzzles, a lot of the time it can be quite vague, so can have you staring at the screen in frustration as to what the hell you’re supposed to be doing. And then the penny drops, and you kick yourself for not realising sooner. Visually, it doesn’t exactly push things, and it’s more in keeping with the previous games’ aesthetic, which doesn’t detract from the experience, it’s hardly up to current gen standards.
Soul Axiom is a tough, challenging and interesting game, which requires a lot of patience and thought to progress. Don’t expect to whizz through it, unless you’re in Mensa. As entertaining as it is, it can be equally frustrating, with little reward. It lacks some of the atmosphere of the original game, and the creepy, sometimes scary atmosphere is all but absent. There are a couple of moments in the game that cause a little unease, but nothing compared to Master Reboot. While it doesn’t have the same impact of its predecessor, Soul Axiom is a great game to take your time with and will make you sit back and think.