Welcome back. Today we’re covering an underwater Metroidvania style game, titled (breathe deep!) The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human. It was released January of this year, developed and published by YCJY. I can’t remember where I’d heard about this one, but I’m glad I did – even though it’s another underwater game (Why must I keep running into these?!).
Story is such: In the year 2996 or so, your ship the Argo 9 is launched into space in an attempt to find a new world for humanity. You get dragged into some sort of vortex and vanish off the radar, only to re-emerge millennia later. The Earth you return to is flooded and devoid of human life. And so you land, starting from your old launch site and working your way back, trying to figure out what happened while you were gone. You read old logs, get new weapons and abilities for your ship, and battle bosses.
This game nails ambiance. If you’re a fledgling game designer trying to learn how to immerse your players in an engrossing world, start taking notes. The music is excellent, starting with the somber title screen music. There’s this common thread of bleakness that runs throughout the game. See that title? That’s not an exaggeration. You’re the last one. Period. No matter what you do in the course of your adventure, the sun has set on the human race. A fact you are constantly reminded of as you drive through the wreckage, read logs of yet another safe zone being flooded, and so on. It can be tough to play sometimes if you dwell on the implications too long. The environmentalist message is thick enough to cut with a knife (or the saw upgrade!), but it’s one of those things we should think about and it’s expressed in broad terms rather than trying to guilt trip or blame a specific person or group, so I didn’t mind much.
The meat of the game is split into 2 sections: exploration and boss battles. The vast majority of the game features no real enemies. There’s things that will kill you if you’re not careful, but they’re more obstacles than anything. This makes the standard gameplay pretty laid back. Think… a walking simulator with a few potholes (okay, landmines too). And I don’t mean that in a bad way. The environments are beautiful in their own way, and Argo 9 handles surprisingly well underwater so the journey between major encounters is an enjoyable experience that ties the whole trip together.
Every now and then, you’ll discover a new item or weapon that helps you further venture into the unknown. There’s a catch though: it’s usually guarded by something that is none too pleased to see you.
And so commences one of many boss battles. These are surprisingly tough. The first boss, a giant tunnel worm, managed to kill me twice before I figured it out. Thanks to the sprawling map design, the order in which you encounter all but the first and last couple is quite flexible, though some routes are easier than others (I fought the one that dropped the dash upgrade almost last. I do not recommend doing the same). There’s often a puzzle element to them as well.
The good news is that most of them will let you turn tail and flee if you feel you’re unprepared, which is much appreciated as the safer stretches of the environment hold plenty of upgrades, hidden or otherwise blocked off until you have the proper components to reach them. You can still reasonably play through with an under-equipped ship if you missed the majority of them like I did, but the extra buffer of health and such is nice to have.
As for negatives, replay value is low. Even with hidden Hardcore Mode, New Game +, and the Boss Rush, there’s not a lot to keep the core gameplay fresh after the first run. I’ve encountered some Crash to Desktop level bugs, and enough of the upgrades are hidden in secret rooms that it feels unfair to discover a much needed hull boost after spending several takes on a boss fight getting smeared across the walls.
Overall, it’s a great game. If you like the Metroidvania style, you should try it. If you like boss-oriented games, try it. If you’re okay with a game that’s a bit on the sorrowful side, definitely try it. It’s $10 on Steam, but currently on sale for $5. Go check it out.