If there’s a genre that’s starting to get severely saturated in today’s indie market, that’s the metroidvania genre. With recent releases like Forma.8 and Hollow Knight, as well as upcoming titles like Bloodstained, there’s no doubt the genre is getting a large amount of new titles on a constant basis, especially in the indie market. In comes The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human, a game with enough unique features to set it apart from the competition and arguably 2018’s first metroidvania title.
The first thing you might think when you first take a look at The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is that it looks a lot like another submarine title released last year, Earth Atlantis. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking this way at first, as both games put you in control of a lone ship in a dystopian future in which humanity has been wiped out from a flooded Earth, with aquatic life forms now being the dominant species in this ruined planet. Thankfully, though the premise might be similar, both games are very different both in their graphical and gameplay aspects. I can’t help but think that The Aquatic Life is a slightly better game in general as well.
Let’s get one important aspect out of the way: The Aquatic Life is a metroidvania, Earth Atlantis was more of a boss rush shooter, with just one small map and little more than boss fights. The Aquatic Life uses the fact you control a submarine to its advantage, providing a vast underwater map with lots of different locales, varied geography, and great enemy design. There aren’t many enemies in the game, with most of the map being devoid of them, turning the exploring sections of the game (where you can find lots of hidden items and text logs) into an actual relaxing experience. But the boss battles are well-designed, huge in scope, and most importantly, challenging. Think of it as Shadow of the Colossus: that game also had little to no threats in the overworld besides the bosses, with those providing intense and memorable fights. This can be summed up with the first boss encounter, The Worm, an immense beast that will probably kill you a couple of times before finally being defeated. All you need to do is figure out its attack patterns and get used to the game’s aiming system, which uses the right analog stick.
The game’s visuals are likely its most impressive aspect, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with them. Let me explain: the 8-bit visuals are gorgeous, the varied landscapes are amazing, and the detailed backgrounds are a sight for sore eyes. That’s where the game’s main issue lies, though: the mix between low-res and retro graphics with extremely rich and detailed environments, coupled with a very small playable avatar, makes for constant moments in which you can barely find your character onscreen. The fact your ship is drawn in bland grey doesn’t help when you’re in the dark depths of the ocean floor, either. The other (smaller) gripe I had with the game was its length. For some reason I can’t properly explain, it feels . . . short. On the other hand, I found The Aquatic Life to be very replayable, making up for its 6 hour-ish length.
Despite boasting a few design flaws, some of which are sadly derived from the game’s visual style, I did enjoy my time playing The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human. It’s a short but creative metroidvania with lots of charm; a game that includes both relaxing exploration segments with very little harm thrown into you and extremely challenging and unforgiving boss battles, making for a game that can please all types of players. If only it wasn’t so short, though. . .
Also available on: Xbox One, PC.
Copy of The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human provided by publisher.