A Pleasant Trip to the Oceans in ‘Abzu’

Aquarium fans are in for a treat with 505 Games’ published sea exploration game, Abzu. Developer Giant Squid takes us on a journey through their game in a “walking simulator” style reminiscent of ‘Journey’ from thatgamecompany. The twist here is that we’re swimming through a series of levels that are each designed to portray parts of Earth’s oceans.

Despite the change from hiking shoes to flippers, the game still behaves like a traditional walking sim – explore each level to find a small list of collectibles, while experiencing a cinematic narrative. Abzu is very good at not telling the player much as there is not a single line of dialog throughout the entire experience. But this isn’t a game about interacting, it’s about observing. And holy heck do we get to see a lot of cool fish!

I don’t have an exact number of how many species of fish appeared in Abzu, though I can imagine there are a lot. And they all were animated to swim like they would in the wild! It’s this crazy amount of detail that makes me so excited about this game. It’s the sort of experience that makes me hope that some day I will be a dad or an uncle or anything really, just so I would be able to share the experience of playing this game the first time.

My biggest concerns and disappointments come from the bits of Abzu that try to be extra dramatic. At one point we find abandoned deep-sea mines, which you would think would tense up the situation. All they did was slow down the player character for a couple seconds and make a loud noise and bright flash. While I understand not wanting to make the player go back to a checkpoint, I feel like this compromise could have been avoided by not including the dang things.

Before and beyond the frustrating explosives, I found Abzu genuinely a pleasant experience. I enjoyed seeing all the takes on different sea creatures in Abzu’s cartoony art style. Personally, I think the nautilus was the coolest, but that’s only because I couldn’t find any cuttlefish. I definitely will recommend Abzu to fans of walking (swimming) simulators, as well as casual gamers with an interest in aquariums or marine biology.

Readers can find Abzu across a whole bunch of storefronts, including Steam, Xbox, and PSN.

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