Player Paul Video Game Review: “Abzû:” Calm, cool, and collected

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The environment in "Abzû" is rich with plant life and different kinds of marine life.

Paul Capoccia, Community Editor

Editor’s note: Steam access code was provided by publisher 505 Games. Game was played on highest settings on PC. It is also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Just keep swimming.

That’s “Abzû,” the spiritual successor to PlayStation 3 cult classic “Journey” developed by Art Director Matt Nava and his newly-formed video game studio Giant Squid.

“Abzû” differs greatly from mainstream titles and even most Indie-developed projects. Rather than following the model of a typical modern video game with objective-based gameplay, “open world crafting” or a screen littered with health bars and mini-maps, “Abzû” is minimalist and simple.

The world in “Abzû” is entirely unique to the gaming industry. Its colors are soft, creating an almost too natural blend of underwater hues. Screenshots can hardly do it justice, but they are pretty spectacular. The beauty immediately dispels any possible complaints for being underwater the whole game.

The game’s environments never look alike, transitioning from bright to darker colors frequently.

The plant life hides whatever lies ahead until the character has swum through it. Meanwhile, schools of fish join together with the character as a convoy for the journey.

The game embraces the humanity of the player. Rather than telling the player what he or she has to do next through tutorials and pop-ups, the environment itself provides guidance. Lighting adjustments and beacons, depth of the water and what direction the fish are swimming are all indicators toward the next segment.

Though “Abzû” is a linear game, where the player goes from one predesignated area to another, the freedom to move at one’s own pace and to explore the environment at one’s leisure gives the game an immersive feeling of freedom.

This very early transition in the game brings the character out of the water to swim across the sky.

To get from one area to the next, the player swims around on their own or on the back of larger marine life that occasionally swim by, like manta rays. From time to time, the player must find a lever, a door or a combination of the two to progress.

“Abzû” is less of a game and more of an experience. What few “puzzles” it contains are not inserted to create difficulty, but rather to build immersion. “Abzû” is all about slowing down and enjoying the beautiful world presented.

There is no winning or losing. No killstreaks or ranking up. Not even a diary or quest journal.

It is a breath of fresh air to the gaming industry that can be played in under four hours with some replayability to explore every nook and cranny for hidden easter eggs like seashells.

Its retail price of $20 is likely too steep for most gamers given it is only a few hours of gameplay, but it is frequently on sale and worth snagging during a price drop.

There are few, if any, games out there that can offer what “Abzû” does. Just a whole lot of beautiful, calming swimming.

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