Developer: Giant Squid
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4( reviewed), Microsoft Windows
Abzu is the first game from developer Giant Squid, a new studio founded by Flower and Journey art director Matt Nava. The game follows a scuba diver on a journey through beautiful underwater coral reefs and ruins inhabited by mostly friendly aquatic life. Much like the other games Nava has worked on in the past, Abzu appears to tell a story, though it’s one the player needs to interpret for themselves with the help of Abzu’s beautiful environments and music.
The gameplay of Abzu isn’t terribly difficult to wrap your head around. You swim through large open areas of water, coral reefs and the like discovering new species of fish and diving drones to help you along our way. Abzu is about a two-hour experience, so I’d recommend playing through in one sitting. Don’t come to Abzu looking for any real gaming challenge; it’s less of a game and more of an experience, a sort of interactive film. The real joys come from the high moments. Upon completing an area, the player comes across large towers, usually in a trench of some sort. Interacting with the tower triggers a cinematic event filling the area with life. New fish, dolphins, whales and much more all rush to the area as breathtaking palettes of color fill the once dark areas. Beyond these climactic ends to gaming sections, you’ll spend most of your time just swimming. You can interact with certain plants on the ocean floor to release new fish into an area, as well as hitch a ride on some of the bigger animals like manta rays.
Meditation plays a key role in one of the most unique features in Abzu. Throughout the game you’ll come across moss covered shark statues, you can interact with these statues and even use them as warp points, however, the primary focus of these statues is meditation. You can meditate atop these ancient ruins and once you do so bounce between the points of view of different undersea life. It’s the second game I’ve felt this way about in 2016, please just let Abzu’s meditation mode be my screensaver.
The look and sound behind Abzu are two of it’s strongest features. The warm and bright colors of a school of tropical fish swimming through a coral reef looks beautiful on the PlayStation 4. The game’s soundtrack also brings some great highs and lows to aid in its breathtaking visuals. Abzu is all about an immersive experience, play this game with headphones! The score is one of the biggest factors in feeling engrossed in a game like Abzu. I’d like to give Abzu another run once PSVR launches in October for a fully immersed experience.
Games like Abzu are few and far between. It’s no engrossing sixty-hour RPG but a brief experience best enjoyed in one sitting. You can pick up Abzu now on PlayStation 4 and PC for $19.99. I think most would agree twenty dollars is a fine asking price when they see how much work went into this beautiful game.
Score: 8 out of 10
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