The world of video games is as diverse as the people that play them. While many envision explosions and epic battles when they think of great games, that isn’t always how it plays out. Every once in awhile a game will sneak in, grab a hold of your imagination, and then take you on a journey. ABZÛ is that game. It promises an experience and it thoroughly delivers. I admit I am a big fan of the atmospheric, exploration games but the music packaged together with a compelling story blew me away.
ABZÛ begins very simply; you are a diver and find yourself in the sea. How you want to approach this situation is entirely up to you. You can choose to quickly move through the area, or you can decide to take your time, swimming and searching every corner of your ocean. I found myself doing a lot more of the latter than the former. The visuals are striking and I was compelled to look at every single detail. Add to that the ability to twist, turn, flip, and swim with the creatures of the sea…you will probably find yourself dawdling along as well.
It is not all swim around and grab on to big creatures either. There are things to collect (shells), meditation stones to sit upon, and animals to free. Even with my (annoying) need to look at every little thing, I missed some of these collectibles. Replay value is high especially if you are the type that must collect everything and unlock every trophy. Another replay value bonus with games of this type is the relaxation aspect. Feeling stressed or even anxious, ABZÛ will let you escape into another world. The game has a hypnotic and meditative quality about it.
The control scheme was fairly basic with options for diving, boosting, and turning. I did have issues with the turning since it was extremely easy to over turn and end up in a somersault or moving in the opposite direction from what I intended. Once I learned to be a little more gentle on the thumbsticks, I had an easier time. In general, the controls were simple to learn and not fussy at all.
Austin Wintory added his stunning musical talent to ABZÛ. He captured our hearts with the Journey soundtrack and did not disappoint with the music in ABZÛ. Without dialogue, music becomes the language with which the story is told. If the music fails, the entire narrative gets lost. Fortunately, in this instance, the music helped the player get caught up in the gameplay and helped create the atmosphere needed contribute to the emotions of the visuals. The lilting notes when everything is peaceful and the deepened notes when things begin to get a little ominous.
Giant Squid Studios created a beautiful gaming experience that allows players to feel connected to the world found under the sea, all while telling a compelling narrative without using a single spoken word. Flower and Journey have done the same thing. It makes sense that ABZÛ would feel familiar to anyone that has had the pleasure of playing those two titles considering the Creative Director for ABZÛ, Matt Nava, was also the Art Director for Journey and Flower. Calling ABZÛ a “copy” of Flower or Journey would be like calling The Division a copy of Destiny (both are online RPG/MMO-esque). Games from the same genre tend to have things about them that feel similar but generally the stories are completely different.
ABZÛ is a beautifully crafted, gaming experience compelling both visually and emotionally.