need to know
What is it? A first-person puzzle game about exploring digital memories.
Expect to pay: $20 / £15
Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Reviewed on: Intel Core-i7 6700K, 16GB RAM, GTX 980 Ti
Link: Official site
Soul Axiom wants to be a huge, cerebral puzzle game. I admire the scope and variety of its modular environments, each with completely different aesthetics and puzzle mechanics. It has an intriguing story that spans generations, built on weighty concepts like the soul, the depths (or absence) of human consciousness, and scientific ethics. Soul Axiom is imposing and impressive from a distance, the silhouette of a skyscraper. But upon closer inspection the looming shadow is just a topsy-turvy paper mache idol held together by twigs and rubber cement.
In the first-person digital dreamscape of Soul Axiom, you’re tasked with entering fragmented memories, which are independent levels dotted with locked doors, laser puzzles, and purple-faced bald guys. The goal in each is to find and touch a digital corpse in order to hallucinate the past. Translation: as a digital soul exploring the Matrix-like assembly of humanity’s hard drive memories, you’re to explore each memory and solve the puzzles inside in order to find out where humanity went and how you arrived. Think The Talos Principle, but with more locales and less fun.
From hokey haunted mansions to space stations that recall System Shock, Soul Axiom’s visual palette is all over the place in a good way, even if the scenes themselves are fairly static and lack minute detail. It looks like a game out of the mid 2000s, where CG cutscenes with obscene artifacting, low poly models, and inconsistent collision were in vogue. It often looks nice from far away, but closeups reveal a lack of detail in texture and geometry.
You interact with the environment and solve puzzles with a handy set of first-person cyber superpowers. They let you shift blue-tinted objects in and out of existence with a click, ‘rewind’ or pause green-tinted objects on a predetermined path, and shoot and destroy orange-tinted objects. But clicking the mouse buttons to use each power feels sluggish. There’s a noticeable delay in how each executes, with the frilly hand animations and grating sound cues playing out before each ability kicks in. The rewind-play power is used more than most, and clicking to pause an object in its movement or animation takes about half a second to register. I already figured I’d never use a VCR again, but now I want to throw them all into a fire.