Ever wanted to swim an endless ocean in the nicest way possible? That’s what you get to do in Abzû; a relaxing 3D adventure from the developers at Giant Squid. “Relaxing” might not be strong enough of a word as this one as could be one of the most chilled out games I’ve played in ages. There’s no need to worry about deaths or “losing”, it’s all about simply getting from one place to the next and you can take your sweet time doing so.
Very little of the story is revealed to you at the beginning. You start as a diver in what appears to be open water but the moment you go down below you begin to see that the real world is down in the depths. Even when the game approaches its conclusion not a whole lot is revealed except in giving your character some real purpose in the context of the game. Avoiding complexities probably helps keep that chilled vibe for all players and you can see that in the puzzles presented to the player.
Progress through the game’s story and its numerous environments is achieved by finding and opening the exit to each area. Doing this usually requires interaction with objects in the world and the design of the areas help to present those problems fairly clearly, such as chains connected to doors. A lot can also be discovered simply by snooping around and seeing what objects you can interact with. The game is not especially difficult or will take you too long to complete. In saying that though it does make the most of its concept and doesn’t pad itself out with unnecessary filler. Completionists and achievement hunters might have incentive to return by finding the hidden items within the game.
Controls are limited to a couple of actions and the sticks for the players movement in the water. It’s mostly inutitive but my one major gripe with the game is that the camera follows the player a little too lazily and in some cases can throw itself into a position that makes it very confusing manage. Frustrations with it can really impact the chilled vibe the game portrays. If the game had any life or death situations it could be a major problem so thankfully it avoids that.
The presentation is really something. Objects within the game world are relatively simple in their designs but are bursting with colours both bright and dark and it is used brilliantly to portray a vast spectrum of underwater landscapes that are often amazing to see in motion. Scale is used well too with some sequences putting you literally face to face with some giant creatures that are just awesome to experience. The game even has meditation statues throughout the areas where you can stop to enjoy the environments in a way that leaves those old fish tank screensavers for dead. The audio is fitting and does much to reinforce your place in the world and it is backed by an excellent soundtrack.
I can imagine there’d be some debate by players as to how much this constitutes being “a game” or whether it is more of a mood piece with interactive elements. Being that there’s no sense of urgency or apparent risks no one can actually lose or be unable to finish it. There are going to be players who will power through this game with ease and wonder what else is there to it but there’ll be others who rarely have the chance to see the end of a game might be rapt that they can take their time and still get the full experience.
However you look at Abzû, keeping it “short and sweet” really gives everyone a chance to check out a title that lets everyone sit back, relax and enjoy the whole game from start to finish and that’s got to be a good thing.
Abzû is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.