Tag Archives: Abzû

A Monochrome Boy and a Great White Shark

Life in general is a bit of a mess right now, thanks to the revisit of my old pal from spring, Mr. Shitty Lower-Back. These past few days have been all about painkillers, mostly good for determining whether I have only a rusty nail or a fiery hot pitchfork stuck in my other leg. That’s pretty much my excuse for the lack of updates this week, even if I still managed a couple of playthroughs. The first one was this month’s PlayStation Plus freebie, Hue, which turned out to be quite a charming little 2D puzzle platformer.

The titular hero of the game wakes up in a bleak monochrome village with a yearning for his lost mom. Still, she’s bound to be out there somewhere, so there’s no choice but to chin up, go out, and explore. At first, Hue is only capable of running and jumping but it doesn’t take long for the tyke to discover his first color. It’s only good for changing the background color of the game, but at the same time it also turns all objects and obstacles of the same color invisible. One hue alone won’t a puzzle game make but as the palette eventually grows to eight colors, brain cells are in for a treat.

Despite such a simple game mechanic – or perhaps because of it – Hue is surprisingly enjoyable. Its puzzle rooms, filled with movable crates, pressure plates, spike pits, lasers, hovering platforms, etc. are delightfully compact, and even if the game isn’t particularly sadistic at any given time, trying to figure out the route to the next exit often requires quite a bit of brainstorming. While most of the puzzles can be thought out leisurely, some of them require fast reflexes. Thankfully activating the color wheel with the right thumbstick grinds time to a near halt.

Hue’s journey is accompanied by a minimalistic, yet beautiful piano score as well as a female narrator who conjures up a decent story context. The adventure takes about five hours to complete, further extended by 28 flasks hidden around the game world. Sadly, though, their only purpose is to be found. Despite this minor blemish, Hue is easy to like. Sure, it’s a bit of a one-night stand but it’s still a tasty snack between more sizable gaming projects.

The same goes for the other playthrough of this week. Giant Squid’s debut game Abzû is kind of like an underwater Journey; a tranquil and enchanting expedition through some breathtaking surroundings. Following a majestic great white shark, the player dives ever deeper and deeper, encountering dozens of fish species, submerged ruins, fascinating coral reefs, wild jet streams, and eventually even artifacts of apparently alien origin. There’s not really that much to play but all the more simply to experience. Abzû is a thrilling two-hour-long journey of discovery with fantastic visuals and music to back it up. The sea is chock-full of beauty, and a symphony orchestra upholds the joys of exploration and discoveries in a top-notch fashion.

Abzû, too, has artificial collectibles strewn here and there just for the sake of collecting, but such lazy design is once more forgiven; when hitching a ride on the back of a manta ray, or breaching the surface of water in a joyous leap together with a bunch of orcas, experiential gaming art truly feels like a thing!

Hackety Slash

Somehow I feel Mr. Professor isn’t much of an artist :D

After retiring from my less-than-stellar golfing career, I have resumed kicking some good old demon butt. After only about 20 hours, Nights of Azure pitted me against a really feisty final boss followed by a short and slightly confusing epilogue and then the closing credits. For the third time in a row, I came to the conclusion that this game, too, coaxes its player to dig a little deeper. Even NG+ whisked me straight to the point before the final showdown, and as there are now new side quests and additional bosses all over the place, I’m once again forced to see just how punishing it is going to be to reach a proper ending.

At least until now, Nights of Azure has been pleasantly level-headed. It has been all about frenetic and mindless hacking and slashing throughout the entire game but at least it remains fun and well-paced. Unleashing wild combos and flashy special moves on hapless mobs is therapeutically relaxing, and the puny hordes frequently give way to tougher, appropriately big and nasty bosses. Should Arnice fall in battle, it’s not a game over as the game simply returns her and her Servans back to the hotel with all the experience gained on the way. That is a most welcome gesture, making even the occasional need to grind a breeze.

The cast is delightfully compact. There are only about half a dozen central characters, each given ample time to shine in the numerous cutscenes. Despite mild stereotypes and some repetition, character chemistry works well and is always silly. That’s definitely a plus, given how unimaginative brooding in a gloomy world overshadowed by a blood moon would be. Even if Arnice has to deal with incurable idiots, the comedy is still bad in a good way rather than just plain tired.

It was a bit surprising that only after about a dozen unique Servans, the game stated their collection to be already half done. Then again, it’s almost refreshing that there aren’t loads of them, especially as it’s deceptively easy to always fall back on the same four Servans. Arnice is eventually able to carry four such four-Servan groups, though, and that’s where the game is once again awfully considerate. Even unused Servans get the same amount of experience as the active ones, so leveling up frail newcomers into fighting shape is no bother at all.

At this particular moment I’m banging my head against the first, awfully temperamental extra boss but even if the “post”-game difficulty spike is rather noticeable, I still find myself smiling even when getting thoroughly beaten.

As well as Servans, past week was also about collecting games. The most unexpected surprise was the SNES Classic Mini, which I swore to get only if it would be absolutely effortless and not subject to price gouging. In the end, I picked up mine from the local supermarket during Friday evening grocery shopping, so it couldn’t have been easier. Looks like living in a small town has its benefits. PS1 JRPG Koudelka and the bargain bin PS4 trio of Abzû, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair, and Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star complemented the backlog that only seems to be growing as time goes by. Oh well, such is game otaku life.