Puzzle game Soul Axiom is the latest title released by developer Wales Interactive and takes players on a cryptic journey through castles, jungles, space and, quite literally, through time. This bamboozling adventure will awaken long dormant parts of your brain and even cause the odd cry for “help!” but will ultimately satisfy the itch for a challenging yet fun experience.
The story of Soul Axiom follows a couple of forward thinking scientists and their creation of a machine that aims to extract the soul of a human and store it digitally so family members can relive the memories of a deceased loved one. While the overall story has a great premise it didn’t really captivate me as much as I would of hoped. That being said, it does add a sprinkling of intrigue as you progress through the game. Each time you complete a puzzle area you will unlock a short video that gives a brief insight into the story around the creation of Elysia; the digital hub for souls. Whilst the puzzles are the real driving force behind the game, the story does become more prominent towards the end and adds an extra dimension to the game as a whole. The voice acting is however a little questionable at times, but not to an extent that puts me off entirely.
Within the first half hour or so of playing Soul Axiom players will arrive at the hub. This is where you begin puzzles, store collectables and keep your unlocked story videos. The puzzle areas are reached by entering a portal that takes you to a game area; think the Crystal Maze with teleportation. The puzzles themselves are varied and I never became bored with an over-used game mechanic. You can tell developer Wales Interactive put a lot of time and effort into coming up with plenty of challenging, yet not over complicated, problems for players to solve. In most instances a keen eye, some well thought out reasoning and maybe a bit of trial and error will lead you to the solution of a puzzle and reward you with that ‘Eureka!’ moment. Only a few times did I become a tad frustrated that things weren’t explained a bit better. In those moments I do feel a hint system or a little more direction would have benefited the game. Nevertheless, I always found my way out of a frustrating situation by studying every inch of the environment until I found what I needed to do.
My favourite puzzle in the entire game involved time travel and the use of many paradoxes. The satisfaction of altering the past from the future to reach my end goal was incredibly rewarding. I had to restart the time loop a few times to figure out what I was doing right and wrong and it didn’t bother me at all. I felt as if I was constantly making progress with the puzzle so I kept coming back for more. My only gripe was that the time sensitive conundrum didn’t last longer.
With an ocean of puzzles comes a boatload of environments; castles, graveyards, spaceships, military bases, lighthouses…the list just goes on. Each area you teleport to from the hub contains one of these settings. It was incredibly refreshing to finish a puzzle after spending a significant amount of time in it and then go to a completely different environment with a fresh aesthetic. I was pleasantly surprised every time I entered a new area. Much like the variety of the puzzles, it kept me engaged and coming back for one more go.
Soul Axiom’s main gameplay mechanic is dictated by the use of, what I affectionately call, power gloves. These ‘gloves’ assign a special ability to each of your character’s hands and work by manipulating pre-designated items in the world. There are four sets of gloves you get to use in-game but each set is given to the player at a different time depending on how far you have progressed into the game. I felt this was a great way of not overloading the player with too many options early on and also providing players with a chance to somewhat master and understand how the abilities work. Another aspect that I appreciated was when you got close enough to an object which could be altered with your powers, it would glow the same colour as the ability you needed to use. This certainly helped when trying to figure out what needed to be done to advance a puzzle.
As I feel discovering the abilities is part of the fun I’ll only talk about the ability that was used more than any other. This was the rewind and pause power. This one ability added a lot of options within the game world and made for some really interesting puzzles. I could manipulate objects and move them around with the simple hold of a trigger and when satisfied with where they were in the world I would use my other hand to pause the object in time; sometimes objects were soft-locked to specific positions which helped a lot when dealing with multiple options in a puzzle. I’m sure you can imagine how this would work when moving blocks about or lining up conduits to conduct electricity. I just wish that I had a better indicator as to what power was assigned to which hand on-screen since I often pulled the wrong trigger on my controller as I’d forgotten which button was rewind and which was pause. This was the same for all the gloves and sometimes when you had to switch powers on the fly it would get a bit confusing. The hands did look different however so there was a visual cue, I just found it hard to differentiate while focusing on items in the world and in situations where I had to be fast. With that said all the gloves were a lot of fun to use and invited a unique way to interact with the game world.
Aside from the power gloves, the only other mechanic affecting the puzzles was your movement such as jumping, climbing and running. While these much simpler game mechanics weren’t used nearly as much, they were still utilised in a number of puzzles and were serviceable. Regular movement was perfectly fine but jumping and crouching were slightly delayed which sometimes caused me to misjudge my timing, but not to the point where I thought it was the game’s fault; I just had to get used to how the character moved. Climbing ladders was also a bit cumbersome; in order to climb you have to press a button and then look up and press forward. Normally in games you just need to hold forward on the thumbstick to climb and as I was used to that I sometimes found myself looking around while climbing and I would suddenly stop. I eventually learned that I needed to stare at the ceiling in order to make my way up. But as you rarely needed to climb it really isn’t too much of a complaint.
Once you complete all the main puzzles at the hub the game isn’t over; players need to re-enter all of the areas to collect broken memories; these are expansions to the story videos and ultimately complete the main narrative via further video recordings. Once you collect a memory you are teleported to another puzzle. Yes, that’s a puzzle within a puzzle; these guys aren’t playing. As you would expect they are just as challenging and fun to complete as those that preceded them but this time they are all Tron-esque in style. Furthermore when you collect enough of these broken memories you can go back to the hub and teleport to a special story driven part of the game where you have a showdown with another character. I won’t go into too much detail but I wasn’t expecting it and it was a refreshing change of pace.
Graphically the game is fine, it’s not going to wow you with incredible textures and lighting but it does enough for you to enjoy the varying environments you visit on your adventures. The only real issue I had with the visuals was when the game used similar bright colours in an environment. I found it hard to spot items I could move and manipulate. This only happened once or twice, most noticeably in an ice palace, however it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game.
Overall Soul Axiom is a game puzzle enthusiasts should try for themselves, with many varying environments and puzzles there is plenty for fans to experience. Although it sometimes lacks a bit of direction this can be overcome should you be willing to look and use the age-old technique of trial and error. If you’re looking for a riveting story you won’t find it here but you will find a satisfying complimentary narrative that acts as a backdrop to the puzzles and environments you journey to. Soul Axiom is a game that gets better the more you progress, which keeps you coming back for more. It took me 15+ hours to reach the conclusion of the story arc but there are still memories and collectables I need to gather and character endings I need to see, and I will. After finishing the game it made me want more and I’ll certainly be revisiting Elysia to claim all my achievements.
- Variety of puzzles
- Variety of environments
- Power Gloves
- Never becomes stagnant
- Encourages Investigation
- Voice Acting (occasionally)
- Climb mechanic
- No hints when stuck