ABZÛ (2016)

Abzu is the type of game that you will want to sit down with after a long day, turn the lights off, and just relax while playing it. Abzu is an underwater experience made by the developer Giant Squid, who’s founder was the art director for the critically acclaimed games Journey and Flower. While deep sea environments can be dark, disturbing, and unsettling, Abzu manages to achieve the exact opposite. It is a zen-like experience to explore the world Abzu.

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The majority of the gameplay in Abzu is just swimming and exploring the ocean. There are a few puzzles, but they are remarkably simple. Abzu is all about exploring the beautiful unknown, and restoring life and vigor to dying sections of the ocean. Many games with underwater sections often struggle with the controls, but the controls in Abzu are very smooth and easy to get a hang of. There is a vague story told through the environment, but that takes a back seat to the meditative nature of Abzu. Just sit back and chill while hanging out with sea turtles, whales, sharks, and various species of fish. This game is absolutely visually stunning and it creates remarkable atmospheres to be appreciated. The orchestral music in the game enhances the feeling of wonder and discovery as you swim through the underwater landscapes. Abzu is more of an artistic experience than a traditional video game.

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While Abzu is gorgeous and easy to relax while playing the gameplay is lacking at times. There are eight chapters in Abzu, I was okay with the fact that the first two chapters served as just pure relaxation and discovery, but chapters three and four were just more of the same. The game is only about an hour and a half to two hours, and the first 45 minutes were all very similar and repetitive. Luckily the game picks up a bit in the last half and ends strong. The middle section of the game was just slow, after 45 minutes of swimming around and appreciating the environment, I was ready to move on to something more interesting. That portion of the game just overstayed its welcome a tad too long in my opinion.

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Abzu is not meant to be a traditional video game, it is more a visual presentation of the beauty of the ocean. If you are looking for action, deep gameplay, or story, you will not find much of it in Abzu. If you just want to sit back and relax for an hour or two, Abzu is the game for you. For what it was, Abzu was a pleasant and memorable experience. I am going to give Abzu a 7/10. It is not groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience.

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