Abzû – Videogame review

: Or how I can’t stop comparing this game to Journey 

From the director of Flower and Journey, and featuring another (with no hyperbole) breath-taking score from Austin Wintory, Abzû is trying to follow-up or surpass one of the best games I have played this year (Journey). A lone diver explores the mysterious ocean depths with a visual and gameplay style which will be instantly recognisable.

The game hits almost all the same beats that Journey did, but misses a few of the best tricks. One example is the way your character in Journey’s scarf grew and made you feel like you were becoming more powerful, whereas in this game your boost always feels a bit insufficient.

Gameplay-wise, this game feels even more accessible. A few moments at the beginning of Journey had me scratching my head. This could frustrate some players who are not as into games. Abzû feels like a game made for your grandparents to convince them how beautiful games can be. There is just no moment of any challenge, or where you have to use your head.

But beautiful it is. No doubt, some of the images are spectacular, and almost worth the price of admission. But, again, I must compare it to Journey, and I don’t think it reaches the same heights. Each moment of the game could be analysed in detail and compared to its predecessor, but the moment that actually most bemused me was the final shot before the cut to the (more pretty, and interactive) credits. If you play it, consider if you think it has a powerful final image.

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The control is taken away from the player to an extreme extent that I don’t recall in Journey. Part of the reason for this is the freedom of movement underwater – movement in any direction could ruin those immaculate compositions! It doesn’t happen often, but if anything, that makes the moments that it does happen even more jarring.

One of the best things about the game is the aquatic life. So many different varieties which are all amazing to look at. You can interact with them and see their names, which is a small touch, but a wonderful one. Without spoiling it, the fish featured in the final level had me very excited as somene who read lots of encyclopedias as a kid.

It is hard for me to approach Abzû without a feeling of disappointment, which it may not elicit if I had not placed Journey on its very deserved pedestal. Without a price tag, and the pain it may give you when you see that £12 got you a 90 minute experience (which felt shorter than Journey for me), it may be easier to love. Its a shame too, because you can see where all the money went. Concentrated into each moment is so much to see and marvel at: it is possibly overwhelming. The price : length ratio makes sense, but it is still a hard sell, and Journey got away with it for me. Right now, I only recommend Abzû when it goes on sale, as guilty as that makes me feel.

6/10

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