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Here we are with the second game from PlayStation’s PLAY 2016. This is ABZU, an “experience” game done by the art director of Journey. This was easily one of the most anticipated games from the last couple of years. I think it’s obvious when you watch the trailers why people got so excited by this game from developer Giant Squid. Its bright colors, pleasing art style, and atmospheric gameplay looked like it was going to be this console generations’ Journey. So, does it reach the heights of Journey? Or does it sink to the bottom of the ocean? Let’s put on our snorkel and goggles, and find out.
You play as an individual in a swimming suit, flippers, and an interesting helmet as you wake up in essentially Water World, but without the multi-million dollar loss. Essentially, you need to find out where you are and what the heck is going on around you. There is actually a plot and an interesting twist, but I won’t divulge it here. Unlike a lot of these “experience” games, I was kept pretty invested with the overall story, which is something that rarely happens.
ABZU, if it wasn’t obvious from what I have said or from its trailers, is a game where you swim your way through an enchanted world of water and sea life. The main goal of doing so is to bring a world back to life while finding out where you came from. You do this by solving simple puzzles and going to shrines to bring more sea life back into the water world you are in. You can obtain little robotic helpers to help solve the simple puzzles, and you are able to swim around and grab onto large sea creatures. The overall game will not take you long to beat at about two hours, like most of the “experience” style games. It’s definitely a calming game to whip out every other day if you want some soothing tunes to listen to while you meditate or work.
ABZU is one of the prettiest games of 2016. It has an incredibly bright and colorful pallet, with dark blues to represent the deepest parts of the ocean. It easily captures the beauty and the unknown of the ocean world. The music is also calming and whimsical at points. This should be no surprise, since the composer, Austin Wintory, also composed the music for Journey, worked on The Order: 1886, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, The Banner Saga, and The Banner Saga 2. It’s one of the best soundtracks of the year.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with this experience. I found the controls to be clunky. The best part about Journey was that it was easy to pick up and play. The controls here just felt slightly awkward, which is a shame, since I recently got done with Uncharted 4, and that game had really solid swimming controls. While I did love my experience with ABZU, I do wish the overarching plot was more substantial, along with the gameplay. For example, they had the experience part down, but they forgot to make the predominant plot worth anything, like Bound. I do love this game, but I do wish there was more to the overall game than just being light on story experience.
Still, despite my criticisms with the game, I really enjoyed my time with ABZU. It’s another home-run in terms of the four PLAY 2016 games. It might be a tad too pricey for some at $20, and I can understand that you want to wait for a sale to pick it up, but if you love Journey, Bound, or any other kind of game that is calming and unique, then definitely pick ABZU up. Just make sure you know how to swim.
This game gets an 8 out of 10