ABZU is a game that desperately strives to emulate Journey. Some talented game developers were sitting around, trying to come up with a new game and thought, “Hey! What if we made Journey… but underwater!” The developers squeeled with delight and ABZU was born.
Wanting to be like Journey is not a bad thing. Journey is a great game. It’s simple. Beautiful. Memorable. ABZU isn’t all of those things. But it is most of them.
First off, ABZU is simple. It’s an easy game with minimal controls. You barely need to press any buttons in order to progress. In fact, there are some portions that require absolutely no button press or direction stick movement. There is zero technical skill required to complete this game.
It’s also simple in terms of story and structure. ABZU is just a series of short, linear segments. Go from point A to point B. Scene transition. Repeat. With each new segment you get a little more of the story. And the story is… fine.
It seemed as if ABZU wanted to say something really profound. It felt as if there was this grand message stuck on the tongue, begging to be released. Begging to change the hearts and minds of the world. But when the story resolves, I was left with a sensation that made me say, “Hmm… neat.”
Probably not the response the developers were hoping for. I understand. The ending of Journey gave me goosebumps when I first played it.
Something ABZU does nail from start to finish is its visual and audio presentation. ABZU is a gorgeous game full of color and life. Enjoyment doesn’t come from finishing ABZU, it comes from slowly exploring each level of the game. Finding new fish at your own slow pace is the highlight of the game.
But that also means that this game will only entertain those who have no patience for dilly dallying.
If you need purpose from your games, if you need action, ABZU is not for you. If you craze a deep and enriching story line, look elsewhere. But if you want to slowly swim around a digital underwater forest while millions of fish (and other ocean mammals) flutter rapidly around you, then definitely check ABZU out.