Abzu - Review (PS4)
Coming into Abzu without having played Journey almost sounds like the equivalent of watching Return of the Jedi before The Empire Strikes Back in that I'm understanding and enjoying everything I'm experiencing, but I feel like I'm missing the full picture of what makes this game so special.
From developers Giant Squid, a team comprised of members who worked on the beloved Journey, Abzu is a beautiful hour to an hour and a half romp through gorgeous seascapes, lush underwater coral forests, and lively schools of fish and other marine animals. This is a game that is particularly hard to put down just on visuals alone to the point where my partner kept staring while I was playing even though she had other work to do.
The gameplay is rather simple in that there is barely anything more than swim forward and press the action button when prompted to with no consequence of death (that I've found anyways). There are obstacles in the game that do hurt so I time and time again tried to push the limit of damage, but my character kept kicking. What drives the game is its vague storytelling by proxy of cave paintings and its small but immersive sandbox chapters, where you're free to roam and examine each level to every nook and cranny. The larger marine animals you comes across you can latch on to and ride for a majestic minute or two. There are several shrines to meditate on where the character will sit on a statue and suddenly the television screen becomes the greatest screensaver of all time. Abzu is all about tranquility.
The game begins with the camera and controls inverted, which I switched immediately but others might find those settings more comfortable. I, however, am not one of those monsters. The character controls well but sometimes when diving straight up or straight down, it becomes hard to maneuver left or right but this isn't a game where that really matters. It feels and handles as it should with minimal complaints from me.
Abzu is an immersive underwater experience where the more time you spend in its breathtaking environments, the more you wish you could never leave it. It's nice to have a game once in a while that doesn't stress you out and offers a more relaxing experience for the price of an hour or two while leaving a lasting impact. It's a game very alluring in its style and atmosphere that makes me want to play Journey and experience what many find to be the better of the two though I still enjoyed Abzu all on its own.