While I suspect the “melancholic exploration adventure/arcade-style twitch shooter” isn’t going to be the next big thing anytime soon, if you want a game that fits that bill exactly, you’ll really want to snap up developer YCJY’s The Aquatic Adventure of The Last Human on PS4 (or Steam) at some point. It’s a great and intentionally gloomy game with solid controls and some pretty (and pretty colorful to pretty dark) underwater environments where exploration is somewhat languid until you accidentally or with intent pilot your little gray submarine into brutal boss fights that give you a run for your money.
The game is a somewhat thoughtful and dour (but overall excellent) look at the last survivor of the human race crashing back on earth after an extended space flight only to find the planet covered in water and ice with dead cities full of clues under the sea and assorted sea life. As you explore the non-linear map you’ll discover most of the creatures are harmless, but as noted, you’ll be in for a more than a few jolts when you get into those tough boss battles. It’s more or less a depressing version of Darius done in the versatile Gamemaker engine with some solid pixel art that recalls a nice hybrid of 8 and 16-bit art styles with some modern lighting effects.
(Yeah, that’s me playing this game badly. And why haven’t you subscribed to my YouTube channel yet?)
Initially, you’ve no weapons, you’re limited to exploring because doors are locked and/or some areas are too dark (you’ll need to find a light source) and your sub’s hull is pretty weak. But a bit of exploration nets you that first weapon as well as the game’s first boss fight that shows this adventure will indeed get your adrenaline pumping in spots. Care is absolutely necessary in your exploration efforts as mines, chemical-spewing vents and other hazards mean a quick death for you (and a somber trophy when you first die that notes you’ve just killed the last human. Yipes!). Other weapons and upgrades appear as your voyage continues, but expect some items to be in out of the way or quite dangerous locations. Save points are generally well implemented and you’ll also gain access to a fast travel system once certain areas are visited.
Those boss battles are rough and demand precision, avoidance and yep, hitting your targets as perfectly as you can. Expect to die often when you make a fatal error or just dip into an area without paying attention to some obvious clues things are about to get ugly. There are a number of text logs to find that tell the game’s story which is a bit sad when you compile all the logs together, but you more or less expect what’s coming after a few thousand years away from home. The game also makes a few points about climate change, so overeager snowflakes who hate games with “agendas” might find themselves missing out on the fun if they’re easily triggered by games that slide in stuff that makes you think a tiny bit about the real world and the consequences of mucking it up without a care.
In addition to the pretty pixel art, there’s a great atmospheric soundtrack that’s guaranteed to seep into your brain at some point if you play long enough in one sitting. Depending on your skill level, you can expect somewhere between 5 to 8 hours to complete this, but nailing all the trophies on one run isn’t at all simple. In fact, this is a game where getting better at beating bosses fast or without dying frequently comes in handy. Or, there’s certainly a certain necessity to all that exploration and gear grabbing when all is said and done. I was content to complete the main game once for this review, but I’m going to go back at some point for a few missing rewards once my backlog clears out a bit more.
Pretty much everything clicks for me with this one and a recent patch has addressed the issues I was going to gripe for a few sentences about, so it’s all good here. The nicest things about this one it it should appeal to old-school game fans as well as those who love the art style and nod to classic and current games that offer up a hefty and rewarding challenge. Anyway, let me do what I do best here as I shut up and let you go pick this up. It’s currently one of my favorite games of this past month and I think it might be one of yours as well. Digerati Distribution is on a roll with mustard these days, so expect a few more quality indies coming your way soon.
Score: A- (90%)
Review code provided by the publisher