Abzu (PS4)

Restorative, wandering, abstract; Abzu offers the serenity of an interactive, aquatic Fantasia. Invisibly guided and intellectually stirring, Abzu’s mind-twisting appearance silently guides its nameless android protagonist through an abstract quest. Its scale obliterates that of videogame adventures hours lengthier; Abzu’s scenic volume is three times theirs.

A thoughtful use of the medium, the design is such to remove control strategically, creating something relaxed and passive. Swept away by ocean currents and freed from the thumb-twitching need of analog sticks, Abzu enters its most stimulating phase. Taking away interactivity holds as much power as interaction. Sweeping through schools of fish and panning by (or even through) a forest of sea weed, the sensation is important, not control. If Abzu’s goal is to emphasize restoration through its submerged fantasy, then allowing passage through scenes of optimal beauty – and ensuring everyone sees them as intended – is paramount (and a striking use of linearity).

Mild struggles between good and evil propels the distinct narrative, taking the medium for its visual and auditory prowess, but in the most literal way. Beautiful blue ocean waters give way to a rusting, overheated sensation when dodging a relaxed threat. Effortless interpretations draw correlation to climate change and the industry which poisons the waters. A grisly scenario for most, yet Abzu is greatly positive, never fearful, and welcoming. There’s an equality to this interactive ecosystem, an unnatural if beauty-laced symbiosis. Together, whales, sharks, and other salt water dwellers join in unison to break from their fear – an underwater protest determined to rid this space of a faceless antagonist.


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