- TITLE: ABZU
- DEVELOPER: Giant Squid
- PUBLISHER: 505 Games
- PLATFORM: PC (also on PlayStation 4)
- GENRE: Adventure
- RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2016
- PRICE: $19.99 USD
When I first saw the promotional screenshots and artwork for ABZU in a press release I immediately felt drawn to play this game. Once I found out that ABZU is a spiritual successor to Journey I felt like I really needed to dig into this game. But, hype really doesn’t matter, does it? After all, when the dust settles what really matters is what we think of the game.
ABZU comes to us for the PC and PlayStation 4 from Giant Squid, a new company helmed by Matt Nava, the art director behind Journey and Flower. While not necessarily directly related to the popular 2012 PS3 title, ABZU seems to draw an awful lot of inspiration from that game.
Much like its spiritual predecessor, ABZU‘s story is told wordlessly through gameplay and cutscenes. The main character (who many refer to simply as “the Diver”) awakens afloat in a relatively-shallow area of the sea near a sprawling reef system after a rather mystical and existential opening sequence. Beyond a couple minutes where the game prompts you with hints about the basic controls, no direct indication is given as to where you need to go and what you must do when you get there. The crux of the game is about exploration, reflection, and interpretation, gathering your own opinion based on the things that you discover and observe along the journey. Once you master the controls (a controller is highly recommended, though not required), swimming around the aquatic environments is fluid, fun, and quite relaxing. The environments are varied and well-crafted, taking the Diver on a journey through colorful reef systems, kelp forests, deep-sea caverns, jet streams, dark depths filled with bioluminescent creatures, ancient ruins, and much more. All manner of sea life can be encountered along the way, and while some creatures are scarier than others, at no time in the game do any of them pose a threat to your well-being. Near the beginning of the game there is a point where a large great white chomps down on one of your drones (and I admit, it was a bit of a natural jump-scare!), but outside of that most all of the interactions with the sealife are positive (which was one of the goal’s of the game’s designers).