Aug 4th, 2016

Saying that ABZÛ is a spiritual sequel to Journey would be like saying a green apple is the same thing as a red apple. While they may seem the same and share similar elements, when you look deeper, they’re both relatively different games. That’s the feeling I had midway through my initial playthrough of Giant Squid’s first game. Well, technically I was still trying to figure out how the game looked so beautiful, but that’s besides the point.

ABZÛ is a game where you control an unnamed character and wander around the deep sea, exploring small caves, riding aquatic life, and generally marveling at this beautiful creation. Yeah, ABZÛ is absolutely gorgeous. Giant Squid really outdid themselves when it comes to the game’s art style. It may not look realistic like Uncharted 4 or Doom, but the vibrant colors and the way things pop make it a beaute to admire.

abzu chirpy

The game drops you into the middle of the ocean. There’s no text to introduce the game’s mysterious story, nor voice to usher you on your journey. The only things present are the wide expanse of blue sea, animals, brief text to introduce controls, and my personal favorite part about the game: Chirpy! Chirpy is a robot who helps you open doors throughout your journey. He doesn’t actually have a name, but since he chirps at you when you press the square button, I just preferred to call him Chirpy.

I like to believe that Chirpy and I had a grand time playing ABZÛ. While we wandered the ocean, we discovered new sea creatures, swam with whales, dolphins, and sharks, and got to ride some too. We also discovered some mysterious plot to the game. That’s another good thing about ABZÛ. The plot isn’t explicitly told to the player. Instead, Giant Squid wants the player to figure it out for themselves. Unless something changes in my final hour with the game, I don’t believe the plot is too complicated. The story is mysterious, but piecing the bits that are given to you is made easy by various hieroglyphics scrawled on the walls of certain caves. Oh and the giant structures laying on the ocean floor. There’s that too.

Abzu area

Going into ABZÛ, I thought controlling my deep-sea diver would be difficult. It’s not. Like modern racing games, basic, forward movement is tied to the DualShock 4’s R2 trigger, while repeatedly tapping the X button will cause the diver to kick their flippers, offering a momentary boost. This mechanic also lets you jump out of the water alone, or with whatever animal you happen to be riding at the time.

Abzu - Dolphin riding

Speaking of which, you can also ride animals. This is handled by holding down the L2 trigger. Once held, if a riding animal is close to the diver, the diver will gravitate toward the animal and take hold of their fin. In this method of transportation, you can maneuver any which way you please, and even jump out of the water like an attraction at Sea World. It’s pretty fun the first few times, but I found that this can’t really replace the default movement since creatures can’t come with you to new areas.

I really only have three gripes with ABZÛ. For one, the game repeats the majestic, on-rails segments a little too much. I’ll be the first to admit there were sections that were more impressive than others, but doing it over and over again made me less excited each time.

Abzu - Swimming Whales

Another one of ABZÛ’s faults are the relatively long loading times. You only load the game when you’re going into a new area. Beyond that, it’s smooth sailing. However, that loading can take anywhere from 20 to 47 seconds. Going from a majestic moment to a black loading screen, especially when you’re trying to figure out what just happened in the story is incredibly frustrating.

The final fault is in ABZÛ’s controls in the late game. All I’ll say is that the game should control one way, but it actually controls another. Otherwise, you’ll have to play the game to find out more.

Abzu - Light

In a lot of ways, ABZÛ feels like it’s trying to be a Journey 2 of sorts. Understandably so since many of the team who worked on Journey now work at developer Giant Squid. From the mysterious story, to the sense of solitude and general walking, it’s obvious that Journey served as an inspiration for the developers. Though it may hit similar plot points, the execution is what makes ABZÛ different enough from Journey to work on it’s own. Anyone who’s played Journey and wants something close needs to play ABZÛ. Even if you don’t have any experience with Journey (which you should) ABZÛ is a title worthy of your money, despite its seemingly short length.