There’s no shortage of games right now that draw players into fantastic worlds, whether it’s through the city streets of New York in Marvel’s Spider-Man; or the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2. But sometimes you just want to kick back and explore a game’s world a sense of wonder, instead of simply trying to reach an immediate end goal. It worked so well for Journey years ago; and now we get to do it again, this time with the spellbinding underwater tale Abzu for Nintendo Switch.
Giant Squid Studios’ adventure game previously released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, but it’s on Nintendo’s platform that it’s likely to find a more involved audience, as players can take this majestic universe anywhere they see fit. And it actually serves a greater benefit in this regard, with the holiday doldrums getting to us and requiring us to find some kind- any kind, really- of temporary peace. Abzu delivers just that, and how.
Like Journey before it, Abzu doesn’t force you to go from start to finish in a straight line. Instead, you’re free to explore each underwater area, seeking out clues to a much bigger story (one involving a long-lost species) and finding fascinating sea life along the way. It’s a game that’s more about the journey rather than the end game. And it works wondrously, as long as you’re willing to accept that it’s not made from a “typical” game mold.
In Abzu, you’re thrust into the role of a deep sea diver. After getting a brief run-through of the controls, you’re set about on your way, exploring however you see fit. This includes digging into ruins and taking in the sights that surround you, including statues where you can stop and take a rest, if only to soak it all in. (Relax, you won’t run out of air.)
The gameplay isn’t heavily complex, as your diver’s controls are easy to handle. And what’s more, the lack of any required pacing make this a game that you can easily sink into, as you’ll become delighted with each new secret and aquatic creature that you find.
Giant Squid Studios absolutely nailed the visual aesthetic with previously released versions of the game, but it feels surprisingly home on Switch. Whether you play on a big-screen television or the system’s portable screen, you’ll become engulfed in the rich visuals produced here. Even though the game takes place underwater, all sorts of bright and beautiful colors come into view. The steady frame rate and small animations (particularly with the fish and other sea creatures) are rich as well. You’re probably not going to find a Switch game as vivid and eye-popping as this one, at least as far as underwater adventures go.
Abzu’s soundtrack is wonderful as well. Austin Wintory, who lent his talents to Journey’s award-winning score, returns to deliver even more greatness here, with themes that fit with the exploratory theme. They’ll really make you want to stick around in this world just a little while longer. That, mixed with atmospheric effects, make this a must-listen. Oh, and invest in a gaming headset if you haven’t already, because Abzu makes fine use of it.
The game doesn’t have any difficulty scale, as you can explore to your heart’s content and see what you can find at your leisure. That said, it does end a bit too soon, as you can see everything that it has to offer within a few hours. Still, the trip is certainly worth it, especially if you’ve been needing something to soothe your nerves. Boy, does Abzu get the job done in that regard.
If you’re the type of gamer that’s used to being told where to go or what to do, Abzu might not be your thing, as the game is open to player interpretation. But if you’re willing to accept what it’s all about, you’ll truly become immersed in its fantastic world. It’s short but definitely sweet, and an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Is this something all Nintendo Switch owners should enjoy? In a simple word, Abzu-lutely.0comments
WWG’s Score: 4.5 out of 5.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.