Soul Axiom [official site] doesn’t mess about. Hitting “New Game” immediately tosses you into the nameless, faceless shoes of a character falling through a clouded seeming-infinity. After a few moments of lightning illuminating huge, vaguely humonoid shapes, you land face first on a boat floating through the air, and thus the Early Access puzzleventure and first person weird-goings-on-’em-up begins. Its spooky cyberspace heart is very much on its sleeve, even though it doesn’t reveal that this is a digital afterlife for storing the souls and memories of the human race until a half hour in. Trailer and some more thoughts below.
The main hook is being able to phase bits of the world in and out. Sometimes removing one will provide materials to bring another in, and so on. In the thirty minutes I gave the game this was never exploited to its full potential, but the odd bit of interaction was enough to keep me exploring the environments. It kept my attention without distracting from the fantastic artistic design of the world with frustration or confusion. Further down the line, going by trailers and dev posts anyway, your abilities are expanded to involve other ways to manipulate objects.
It really is beautiful, nailing a Tron-like neon cyberspace feel. Threatening or unusual elements like the apparent-antagonist (the angel fellow in the header image) look out of place and draw the eye, too rounded and fleshy for this place of shiny black surfaces. It’s atmospherically creepy without relying on dripping meathooks or lunging monsters. The backstory of exploring memories also gives a nice excuse to branch out, with some early sequences having an Ancient Egypt vibe.
It’s quite similar in look, feel and theme to another Wales Interactive game, Master Reboot [official site] which John made appreciative noises at back in June. Soul Axiom is currently half content-complete on Steam Early Access and should be finished around midyear.