Genre: Exploration Adventure
Release date: August 2, 2016
Review Platform: PS4
Let’s use a little reviewer shorthand here. The award-winning game Journey was 2012’s Flower. And Abzû is this year’s Journey. It’s just that simple. If you loved Journey, and really, what sensible gamer didn’t love Journey, you will really enjoy Abzû.
Well, what exactly is it? It’s a third-person (mostly) underwater exploration game. You play a humanoid creature of some kind who’s swimming in, around and through a series of seriously beautiful, (mostly) aquatic environments, enjoying your fishy friends and solving very light puzzles.
There’s plenty to love here. First of all there’s the wondrous score by Austin Wintory. Full of choral majesty, the music creeps, sooths and soars. I’d listen to the soundtrack alone; it’s that good.
Next: The wildlife. Even though the settings you’re meeting them in are the stuff of fantasy, every single creature you meet is a depiction of an actual real-life-on-planet-earth creature. There are even places where you can take a rest from your exploration, sit on a pedestal and “meditate.” In this state, you can scroll from fish to fish to shark to whale to fish and learn more about your fellow swimmers.
Also: There are no enemies. You are friends with everything that swims, even – you might even say, especially – the sharks. There are many sharks of various kinds in the game, and they are all your homeboys, every single one. The only things in the game that can cause you even a little bit of (temporary) harm is a series of sort of floating mines that electrocute you just a bit and then (sometimes) explode. Because…we have no idea.
Abzû isn’t a sandbox; sorry, I mean it’s not a fishtank. This is not really an open-world game where you zoom around and do what you want. There’s a definite progression to the game. It expects you to go from here to here to here, eventually. Not that there’s any hurry to do anything in particular. But the path is there when you are ready to move forward.
There are “puzzles.” I really feel compelled to put that word in quotation marks, because they aren’t really puzzles. They’re more like activities. It’s just to give you something to do other than simply swim around. They involve opening doors, mostly, and you will be able to do them in your sleep. That doesn’t take away from the game, though.
My one real complaint about the game is that the controls are not very tight. Many times I found my character moving in a direction that was in utter opposition to where I wanted her to go. Now, no one was chasing me, and there was plenty of time for me to get her under control and go where I wanted her to go, but this was a bit frustrating nonetheless.
No, the point of the game is simply to have the languid, dreamy, floaty experience. This would be a good game to fire up after you’ve had a really horrible day. Glide through the undulating underwater vegetation and sea creatures of every conceivable size, all in electric colors.
The game is very short. I finished it in less than 90 minutes. It makes Journey seem lengthy. But that’s okay, too. It’s definitely a game you’ll want to experience more than once.
+ Intoxicating presentation: Colors, wildlife, music all gorgeous.
+ Nice dreamy vibe.
- Very short for a game that costs about $20.
- Kludgy controls!