It’s a little tricky to define exactly what ABZU really is. On the surface, it’s a beautiful, relaxing, experience-driven underwater exploration game from the makers of the critically acclaimed Journey and Flower. However, much like the oceans it seeks to depict, the game is so much deeper than expected.
Going with the Flow
In ABZU, players take control of a Diver character making his/her way through the ocean. Along the way he/she encounters a wide variety of marine life that inhabits the different aquatic realms. There isn’t much else that is explained about the Diver and its origin or purpose isn’t entirely clear. In fact, throughout the whole game, virtually nothing is explained about the story. The game does have a loose overarching narrative but only for those who are willing to look for it. There are hieroglyphics and paintings in the ruins you explore in the game that fill you in on some sort of backstory. However, for the most part, you’re never really spoon-fed the narrative directly so much as you try to ingest pieces of it while forming your own take on the events of the game. Quite aptly, you just go with the flow of where the game is taking you.
The majority of the game takes place underwater and as such the swimming mechanics are the main way of getting around. The controls do feel a bit clunky at first but once you get used to them it’s legitimately fun to swim and boost around doing flips and rolls through the various underwater locales. The Diver can also emit a light chirp to interact with the various marine life and objects in these areas. There’s also a ride ability which allows the Diver to latch onto some of the various sea creatures in the game as they go about their business.
Capturing that sense of wonder and amazement is something that ABZU does really well. There is certainly a lot to experience as schools of fish whiz and weave by, all manner of Manta rays and Sea Turtles majestically coasting the currents and giant whales and sharks loom ominously in the distance. The shear depiction of the multitude of flora and fauna in this game is breath-taking to say the least and it’s easy to get lost for minutes on end just gawking and marveling at all there is to see. Add to this the ride mechanic that was mentioned previously as well as a Meditate feature in which you embody the different aquatic lifeforms and you’re treated to a wonderfully relaxing, time-sinking, experience.
The phenomenal sound design also does a huge part to hammer home that feeling of discovery and amazement. The music is so beautifully melded to whatever is happening in the game from curious tones of whimsical poking about to flights of fancy during the faster segments of the game. It’s almost Disney-like in its execution and it gives the game that extra bit of magic.
All that being said, it’s easy to go into ABZU thinking its something its not. In the early levels its hard to understand what it really is and one expects there to be more to it. In that sense, the game feels a bit empty and barren at first with not much to do but explore. It’s also a little short if don’t end up wandering around. As far as gameplay goes, there’s not really a whole lot to do. There isn’t any combat in the game at all. There’s some light puzzle-solving and a few collectibles to scrounge up but for the most part ABZU focuses on the experience and sense of wonder as its primary narrative/gameplay hook.
For all that it is, ABZU is truly beautiful. It’s a little bit short and takes a while to get its hooks in but once it does it takes you to some legitimately awe-inspiring moments. It plays around with the scale and beauty of the undersea life and produces some incredibly jaw-dropping experiences. It seamlessly blends the amazing sense of discovery, beautiful art style and orchestral sound design creating a must-play experience for everyone.
Check out our other videogame-related content, like our Overwatch Review, INSIDE’s Backstory, Sony E3 Press conference Round up and All the Insane things you missed in Metal Gear: Peace Walker
Raffy Leynes is a geek of all trades (master of fun).He loves videogames, comicbooks, movies, cartoons, wrestling, science and art. Lately, he’s been liking his geekery with a dash of “Indie”. He doesn’t know what the f*ck musings are but he is told he does them on his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.