Soul Axiom is a rather interesting game, to say the least. A sort of sequel to the 2013, and similarly curious, Master Reboot, Soul Axiom is set in a digital world. A hub world called Elysia, to be precise. Scientists discover that the soul is real, and so in an attempt to study it, prolong life, and one would assume make some bank along the way, servers are created which can hold souls in an eternal resting place of good memories and colourful lights.

However, when you ‘wake up’ in this world, things are a little different. You seem to be being pursued by a winged monster (or angel) which sabotages your transport early on. You manage to make it to a portal, ending up in a hub world – greeted by a hologram/advert welcoming you to Elysia. However, it turns out not everything is working as it should be. The memories you should have access to aren’t available, and the only way to get them back is to delve into a representative world for those individual memories and figure it all out.

soul axiom angel

Of course, what this means in terms of gameplay is solving puzzles that allow you to progress, and then being rewarded with a cinematic – the memory that’s been lost – which will eventually reveal all and hopefully answer why your afterlife experience isn’t going the way it should be.

As already intimated, each memory has its own unique setting. The first of which, for example, is a jungle, the second a military base, and so on. All set with different puzzles, music and underlying narrative to uncover.

Puzzles rely on use of a selection of powers unlocked throughout the game. You have a phase power, which gives you the ability to remove and bring in to existence certain obstacles (a wall, bridge, grating) which will usually give you access to another area or allow for something to pass through; secondly you have an ability to stop and forward objects’ motion, meaning you can manoeuvre an object from one place to another, stop objects in their tracks, turn objects around, etc; and thirdly you have a destruction ability, which quite simply lets you blow holes in destructible surfaces and items. You also have a fourth ability which allows you to redirect a beam of ‘corrupt’ energy, but this is something introduced towards the very end of the game (more on this later).

The powers are fairly simplistic on their own – something that I was worried about during the first few levels – however, in combination, levels turn out to be fairly varied affairs. Some are more linear than others, but generally speaking you can wander around the levels, exploring and solving the puzzles as you find them. We’re not talking The Witness levels of freedom here (in fact, you usually have to do the puzzles in order anyway), but there is certainly more to the design than “here’s a puzzle, solve it”.

SoulAxiom_01

One level which was particularly brilliant was set in an apartment with a time machine in the living room. You can travel forwards and backwards in time, with each time zone containing a different element of the puzzle. Phase out a wall in one time zone, then go forward in time to find you can access whatever is in there in the future as well. Send an e-mail requesting a part to add to your time machine and you will find it arrived in the next time zone. And so on. The knock on effects and figuring how things changed and fitted together was quite tough, but so interesting and rewarding. And there are a fair few clever puzzles beside that.

But there’s also a lot of simplistic, dare I say, uninspired ones as well. Plenty of puzzles just essentially require you to move an object with little thought – lower this thing, put this over there to get the key. I feel there was definitely room for more creative puzzles throughout the game, particularly when you’ve got three main mechanics to solve them. A level may see you using all three of those mechanics, but in a disjointed fashion – you moved a box with one power, phased a wall with another, and destroyed a lock with another. It’s faux complexity, giving the impression of a detailed puzzle but actually just offering a multitude of simple ones.

SoulAxiom_04

On the other hand, however, variation is where Soul Axiom thrives, and while some are a bit easy, there are at least a good range of mind games to solve (maths based puzzles, memory puzzles, object organising puzzles, and more). A game of roughly 15 hours and a plethora of different areas, including your hub world and the preceding areas, there’s plenty to get into. It’s not the most graphically impressive title (pretty, but not particularly high quality), but I was very impressed by the number of environments the developers created, and it helps to alleviate some of those less interesting gameplay sections. The drive of the narrative instils a will to push on as well, as the whole concept is so curious and compelling. You’re given just enough information to understand where you are and what you need to do, but putting the pieces together is something you have to work for.

The story is helped along a bit by collectibles that can be found throughout memories, and these are then conveniently stored in a little section in your hub (as are memories you’ve completed) which you can return to at any point – to view again, or simply to see which ones you may be missing so you can return at a later date (the hub world is really nicely laid out, and I’m so glad you have the ability to continue after the game’s end to keep looking for things you’ve missed).

soul axiom hub

Unfortunately, though, there are some issues with how the game actually plays. Controls are a tad clunky, which while not that annoying for most of the game, can become an issue later on when you’re required to be more precise during puzzles – if you need to move something fast, it’s a good idea for aiming and input reaction to be spot on, otherwise things just get frustrating. Additionally, once you unlock the ‘corrupt’ power (which I mentioned at the beginning of this review), in order to use it and complete the game you need to revisit all of the levels you have just completed to find the portals to the corrupt memories. It’s actually quite an interesting feature – opening up brand new levels for each of the main ones and unlocking memory cut-scenes in full – but it’s frustrating that with some memories you are required to complete the same puzzles again in order to access the corrupt ones (or at least parts of them, obviously you don’t have to complete the level in full a second time). It’s not lazy development, so to speak, it’s just a bit inconsiderate.

The game is rugged in some departments and a little less ambitious than I had previously thought it would be, but Soul Axiom is still a well put together and intriguing experience. It’s a cool world filled with sparkly tech surroundings, a multitude of far ranging level environments and some really enjoyable puzzle solving. It seems to have benefited massively from its time in early access, but it’s still not quite as polished as I would have liked. For that reason I struggle to give the game a 7/10, but at the same time the wealth of content and unique premise makes me think twice about a 6. So I’ll meet it in the middle. Either way, it’s a recommendation if you’re looking for a new puzzle experience, just so long as you don’t mind some simple design.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29