A journey under the sea.
I am not usually one keen on “experiences” in games. Call me old fashioned, heck just call me old, I like traditional mechanics. I like jump buttons. I like collecting and watching meters go up to falsify my sense of getting stronger. That said, games such as ABZU usually don’t even cause a blip on my radar. I thought Journey was OK, and I despised Gone Home. These types of games clearly are not for me.
So why can I not stop thinking about ABZU? Ever since I put the controller down after finishing it (in one sitting, mind you) I keep thinking about diving back in.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
ABZU is a lot like Journey, which isn’t a surprise when looking at the pedigree of the developer. Giant Squid Studios was founded by Matt Nava, who was the art director on that game, as well as Flower. The music also resonates, again thanks to the work of Austin Wintory, who also scored Journey.
The flow of the game is simple, move forward, explore, and solve some extremely simplistic puzzles. I never died, I’m not even sure players can die. This experience is all about the journey. There is a lot to see throughout, but it is never forced. Players can meditate and take in the sea life, or find larger creatures to ride on, again with no real game play implications. Everything here is simply for taking in.
It is also no secret that the game is short. While I could have spent hours exploring the areas around me, pushing through the core game can take as little as two hours, perhaps even shorter as I got lost in the visual tour de force more than once. After completion I was happy to see that I could revisit areas from the main menu, as there were certainly some that I wanted to experience again.
One of the ways I can tell how incredible the art direction is in a game, is how many screenshots I take while playing through. Almost every new area I was hammering the button on the PlayStation 4 controller in Abzu. The bright colors mixed with the unique creature designs really took my breath away. Even swimming through a blizzard of fish never dropped the frame rate either. It was beautiful, and really had me on the edge of my seat whenever entering a new area. The sense of scale is incredible.
The music is stellar as well. The sweeping orchestral sounds and vocal work are as much a part of the journey as the visuals are. It felt like a conductor was right there for every moment, every set piece, and every encounter.
Abzu is something that was never even on my radar. Then I booted it up, and never let go. Every area was an experience, and it made an impact on me. I don’t spend my time trying to figure out what it means, I just enjoyed the ride, and it is easy to recommend. Especially to those that enjoy the idea of swimming in the depths of the ocean, and exploring the alien life found below the waves.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.