Today is yesterday, with a new title from the Swedish developer Y/CJ/Y, “The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human.” While designed to be played on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC, the metroidvania-themed game is very reminiscent of Atari titles from 40 years ago with pixelated graphics and two-dimensional movement. The game starts with an animated scene showing a spaceship leaving earth, entering a wormhole, and returning several thousand years later (a la “Planet of the Apes”) to find the entire planet under water. Thankfully, the spaceship can double as a submarine. And a very capable submarine at that.
After the cutscene, the player navigates the depths of the ocean very much like a floating Megaman or Mario game from the 1980s. At first, things are rather benign with various underwater plants and few animals. The player will encounter ancient record tapes that begin to tell a tale of just what happened while the hero was away on interstellar sabbatical. Very quickly, however, things get more difficult with the first major encounter, a giant sea worm. Unlike some games, there is less button mashing and more maneuvering for position to score hits before being either hit by the worm or smashed to pieces by its mini-worm hordes.
The best part of the game experience is the soundtrack, which really captures the mood of the undersea environment in the far future. Other than the boss battles, the game is captivating to play, with the story teased out in small bits and a sense of immenseness in the play areas. A handy map is on screen to help the player figure out which tunnel they are in. There are puzzles that need solving, such as where are the controls to open undersea doors to enter a new area. Exploring the area as much as possible is heavily encouraged, as upgrades such as a stronger hull can be found. Upgrades are the absolute key to survival, as the monsters start hard and only get harder.
Graphics are intentionally pixelated, which while it sets an artistic perspective of the game, makes it feel like the underlying game system is being sorely underused. This would not be too much of an issue, but it is irritating when changing areas of the map requires a five second delay for the new area to be loaded. When an Xbox One can render athletes in an NFL game to be nearly lifelike, why is a pixel game taking so long to load? While this is a minor issue, overall the game is nostalgiaware at its best.
In summary, the game would have strong appeal to anyone that loved classic Atari games with two-dimensional movement, lots of joystick action, and some button-mashing. The included story adds depth to the experience and some purpose to the continuous battles, while the musical score sets a perfect tone. The game is available for direct download on the Microsoft and Playstation stores for $14.99, and receives a 4/5 rating.