NOTE: Due to some potentially unsolvable recording issues with this game, there is no video at this time.
AXRIA Retro World is an enjoyable, somewhat unpolished, throwback to Game Boy platformers with a few modern tweaks. There are several games which AXRIA takes inspiration from or at least pays homage to, though the Mega Man and Mario series are far and away the most obvious. While all of the music used is taken from other games, most, or possibly even all, of the spritework is original and well-made. The references to Mega Man and Mario games go beyond being merely aesthetic as AXRIA is filled with enemies which behave in virtually identical ways to various foes from the two series while the main villain, Dr. Scarfire, shares more than a few similarities with a certain other mad scientist.
Though AXRIA may not be the most original of games, there is more to it than mere nostalgia-fueled mimicry. Like many a platforming protagonist, Sarah can defeat most enemies by jumping on their heads, but her primary weapon and tool is the Axria Star. Sarah is able to launch this star in a straight line in front of her, but it will bounce off of walls and Sarah can push and bounce it around to make some tricky shots. There can only be one star onscreen at a time so creating a new star will instantly destroy the current one, but there is otherwise no cooldown period between shots. In addition to serving as the primary form of attack, the Axria Star is also capable of destroying fake walls and collecting items, which are often placed behind spikes, just below the ceiling, and in various other locations which Sarah herself cannot reach.
The Axria Star is an interesting mechanic, but it is not without its faults. By far the biggest issue with the star is how awkward it is to get rid of it. The star will be destroyed when it collides with most enemies and larger projectiles and even goes away if it loses too much momentum, but the only way to manually destroy the star is to press and hold the attack button. This isn’t an issue early on, but later stages often have destructible walls for the star to carve a path through and needing to constantly hold down the attack button to stop the star from destroying the ground beneath your feet and to prevent Sarah from creating a new star the moment the button is released can get annoying. Parts of the game also seem to not take into account just how bouncy the Axria Star really is. Nearly every boss has a safe spot, often right at the entrance to the room, from which Sarah can launch and bounce stars to hit the boss without any risk of being hit. Destructible terrain near the end also at times feels like it is designed in a way which demands a degree of precision which simply can’t be achieved without relying upon a bit of luck or repeated attempts due to how rapidly and unpredictably the star can bounce around and Sarah’s inability to aim the star in anything other than a straight line in front of her when launching it.
Wall climbing is another of Sarah’s abilities and it is easily the most frustrating and unpolished part of the game. Sarah will latch onto a wall the moment she touches it, sometimes even teleporting to cling to the side of a wall upon touching an edge. There is no wall sliding, so lining up for precise jumps often requires a good amount of dropping down and jumping back up to become properly aligned. Though this can get annoying, the real trouble comes from the actual jump. The direction you want Sarah to jump in and the actual jump button need to be pressed almost simultaneously to perform a proper wall jump. Sarah will let go of a wall the moment you stop pressing in its directions; press the jump button too early and Sarah will just reattach herself to the wall, press the button too late and Sarah will fail to jump at all and more likely than not will promptly plummet to her death. Wall jumping can be tricky to implement and even many commercial games fail to implement it particularly well, but it is more than a little frustrating when, in a game where you die in a single hit from anything, the majority of my deaths during my playthrough were not due to enemies and hazards, but to fighting an overly-finicky mechanic.
I don’t want to sound too harsh on AXRIA Retro World as there are plenty of things which it does right. Secrets are a huge part of this game and prodding at suspicious locations almost always results in a reward. Most secrets come in the form of rooms containing 1ups and several collect-100-of-these-for-an-extra-life crystals, but there are also plenty of warps, hidden path branches, optional areas, and even at least one optional boss fight. Though it is linear on the surface, there is a sense of exploration and discovery to AXRIA which makes it truly feel like it belongs to the era of gaming which it pays tribute to and the knowledge that you’ve almost certainly missed something gives it a sense of replayability which many other games lack.
AXRIA takes a more modern, refreshing approach to checkpointing. Compared to many Game Boy platformers, AXRIA is slightly shorter than most with four worlds each consisting of three sections. While some short games try to make up for their brevity with excessively harsh death penalties, that is far from the case here. Players start with three lives, but there are infinite continues and getting a Game Over only puts you back to the start of the current section. Longer sections also have one or more actual checkpoints which Sarah will respawn at upon death, though getting a Game Over still sends her back to the start of the section like usual. That said, most boss fights are perhaps a bit too generous with checkpointing as, excluding the final boss, Sarah is able to respawn mid-fight without resetting the boss’s health and attack pattern.
It has its flaws and rough spots, but AXRIA Retro World is an otherwise pleasant and entertaining way to spend an hour or two.