Sea creatures are a joy to watch, as they go about their business or interact with the diver as she passes through. Larger animals can be grabbed for a tandem swim, and some sections see hoards of animals follow the diver in a swarm. If you like, this can allow for some charming moments like leading a pod of dolphins and other fish in a dash to the surface to breach into an ecstatic leap, or guiding a massive whale shark through a shoal and watching him lazily open his mouth to scoop them up.
In Abzu, with the right trigger control you immerse yourself and move through the levels, you run this as the main character with the left analog. Interacting with objects is limited to a single action button, but with the left trigger you can grab the back of one of the beings that inhabit this world for a few laps. Perhaps the only problem I had was with the camera control, because for some reason, there is a button to reset automatically. This caused me some problems, because there are times when you lose track of where is up and where down.
The landscapes guide you subtly from stage to stage, and there’s a narrative hiding beneath the colourful scenery and gorgeous orchestral score if you care to look for it. To make it through each area the diver needs to enlist the help of underwater drones and make use of some mysterious underwater technology and mystic portals. Meanwhile several encounters with a great white shark also allude to a potential story.
But this is the kind of game where each player is likely to come away with different interpretations and impressions depending on what caught their eye. While some will rush through in an attempt to uncover the diver’s ultimate motivation, others will scour the sea floor for points of interest to uncover.
My favourite past-time was unlocking the various meditation locations that allowed you to send your consciousness around the ocean, examining the lives of all kinds of fish.
The relaxed, largely goal-free nature of the game has the potential to wear thin, but personally I found the controls fun enough, the environments and music beautiful enough, the various animals smile-inducing enough that even after the three hours it took to reach the end I was happy to dive back in, ready to search for more clues and uncover what it was all about.
ABZÛ is out now for PlayStation 4 and PC.