A Melancholy and Monster filled Adventure
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is a 2D action-adventure exploration game that ventures into a deep underwater world, developed by YCJY. Controlling a small submarine, the player navigates the flooded caverns and aquatic jungles of a submerged earth where all that remains of humankind are the sub-aquatic decrepit cities. Where humanity once flourished, nature has reclaimed. Fish and plant life have thrived, spreading into the demolished cities and rusted machinery. And within the darkest hidden corners of the deep lie colossal monsters that shouldn’t be disturbed. So in this post-apocalyptic scenario the question is always the same: what happened to humanity? How did we meet our demise this time?
The story of Aquatic Adventure is told through old holo-tapes that are spread throughout the world. Each one contains a sentence or two describing a snippet of history. These small texts are only hints compared to the immense story that is told through the landscape. Abandoned gigantic cities, underwater wind farms, and scientific facilities all piece together a larger picture of how the human race met its end. It’s a thoughtful premonition and commentary about how we treat our planet today and avoids being preachy by using exploration and landscape to make its point.
In the place of human civilization, a beautiful and tranquil world grew. The landscape is peaceful, colorful and relaxing to explore. There are a few enemies and obstacles but they are immobile and easy to avoid, leaving you to explore without a care. From the big open areas to the small caverns, all the spaces are packed with wild life and things to look at. There is so much detail in the pixel art style and in the movement. Colorful fish of all different sizes swim around you. The plants sway with the underwater flow. You leave a little bubble trail behind you as you travel. Depth in the 2D deep blue is accomplished with layers that fade into the background. As you travel, you move between the layers, creating spatial awareness. This sometimes can cause some background / foreground confusion. However, the world of Aquatic Adventure is peaceful and leisurely… until you dare to explore the deepest, darkest corners where danger awaits.
Straight to the point, the boss battles in Aquatic Adventure are pretty tough. With an encounter near the beginning of the game, it established that there will be difficult boss battles, and yes, they will be ten times the size of you. Being that you start off with a harpoon with slow fire rate and can only fire downwards, you can’t go into a boss battle all guns blazing. Each battle is challenging but not unfair. When you do defeat a boss, it’s epic. After conquering a God of the deep, you gain an item that lets you explore further into the world. With this reward system, the game puts a heavy emphasis on the boss battles. For someone like myself who wants to explore, it was a bother when the game cut off the chill in replacement of thrill. However, the boss battles are interestingly unique from each other. You do feel a sense of supremacy when you defeat them.
It would seem like there is a large, almost jarring, distinction between these two aspects. From being totally relaxed to flying into a fury of panic and harpoon missiles, they both blend easily from one into the other with a lot of help from the soundtrack. The music helps these transitions immensely while simultaneously creating a thick atmosphere. The music conjures a feeling of wonder when you explore the first area, then with subtle changes can merge to mysterious, nerve-racking, then terrifying. With cleverly placed environment changes such as light to dark, the atmosphere can go from serene to chilling without a harsh switch.
But among the eerie atmosphere, the adept music, and stunning landscape is a story of sadness: to witness the self-destruction of humankind, our stubbornness and unwillingness to change. The grey underwater cityscapes are surrounded by colorful wildlife, creating a stark contrast. Even when moving underwater, the human race didn’t adapt to the environment or blend to a new way of life. We just picked up our concrete and steel and moved it, bringing pollution and waste with us. And finally when we all died or left nature got to claim back its home and flourish. And now the last human has returned and is causing destruction again, slaying these awesome giants. History is repeating itself.
A unique adventure that chose to take a melancholic stance of a post-apocalyptic story, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is simultaneously relaxing and challenging with a beautiful underwater environment and heavy atmosphere. For a game that is a couple of hours long, it certainly has a lot of exploration, action, and adventure. It’s available on steam for $9.99 / £6.99.