Originally published on Trevor Trove on August 10, 2016
TL; DR(eview) – ABZÛ is a beautiful and stunning experience. Unfortunately, it loses just the slightest glimmer of its magic if you’ve already played games like Flower or Journey but taken as its own creation, ABZÛ is a gorgeous trip through breathtaking underwater vistas.
ABZÛ is the first game by the newly formed Giant Squid Studios, led by Matt Nava – former art director of thatgamecompany. If you’ve played Flower or Journey, you’re likely familiar with his work. Having played both of those titles prior to this one, it is practically impossible to miss the influences those titles have on ABZÛ. The “story” is very reminiscent of Flower, with the character design and art style acting as an underwater version of Journey. None of this is bad per se, it just doesn’t bring a lot new to the table if you’ve already played those forebearers.
ABZÛ puts you in control of the Diver, a humanoid creature on a quest to restore the ocean’s splendor. The underwater worlds are visually stunning and often full of acutely detailed aquatic life. Many areas feature “meditation” statues where the Diver can sit underwater and, as the player, you take control of the camera and can simply change perspective from among the various nearby sea creatures. I often spent a few minutes just doing this and enjoyed turning my television into a virtual 60″ aquarium.
There isn’t much else in the way of gameplay elements. You’ll occasionally have to trigger a couple switches to progress through the next area. There are some collectibles sprinkled throughout in the form of shells and restoration pools that you can activate in order to bring back certain creatures into this world. Later in the game you’ll have to maneuver your Diver through a series of mines. But as with the games in this genre, all of these elements take a backseat to the world and the beauty therein.
And compared to the somewhat barren fields of Flower or the desert of Journey, ABZÛ certainly does have the most beautiful environment so far. Natural underwater environments are richly populated with flora and fauna alike. The Atlantis-like underwater ruins of the Diver’s culture are certainly very reminiscent of the Journey ruins but feature brighter tones, especially as the game progresses. Then there are the strange mechanical structures (often inverted pyramids in nature) that seem to be doing harm to the natural order of things. Three very diverse environments that keep the game from feeling too “one-note” over the course of the two to three hours it might take to progress through the story.
It could certainly take more or less time depending on how often you just stop to enjoy the world around you.
If you enjoyed Flower or Journey, this serves as a great title to tide (oof, pardon the pun) you over until thatgamecompany’s next game. As a first foray for this new studio, it’s a solid entry built around that style and aesthetic. If you’ve never played those games, this is certainly a great entry point in its own right with arguably the best underwater worlds the medium has every seen.
ABZÛ is available now on PlayStation 4 and PC. For more information, visit the game’s website.