I don’t know what I would do if I was the last human alive. Maybe I’d sit down and work through a backlog of video games and movies, or perhaps I’d finally have the time to learn to play an instrument – who knows? One thing I can definitely say though is that I wouldn’t risk extinction by taking on devious creatures on what remains of a sunken, post-apocalyptic Earth. That’s the premise of The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human though; a game that mixes up elements of Metroid with Shadow Of The Colossus and in turn offers a fantastic experience that cements itself as one of the first ‘must own’ titles of 2016.
The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human stays true to its title by casting you in the role of the last human alive as he takes part in an aquatic adventure. Simple, huh? Fortunately there’s a lot more to the premise than that, with the titular hero returning to Earth after spending an unknown numbers of years traversing through a wormhole in Space. Earth has changed in his time away, with the futuristic cities now flooded and the only signs of life coming from the marine creatures that have now took humanity’s place as the dominant species. It’s up to you to find out exactly what happened to humanity during your time away.
Whilst the premise is fairly simple, the story is bulked out with many ‘holotapes’ to discover that give you a brief insight into what exactly has happened to Earth. They’re interesting and actually hit a little close to home, especially when you consider the risks we currently face with global warming and environmental changes. There’s an enjoyable tale to be told though that offers enough mystery to keep you intrigued as you explore Earth’s watery grave, along with a satisfying conclusion that wraps things up nicely.
One of the main features of The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human is progression; you begin the game with an unarmed submarine, but by the time you come around to finishing the roughly five hour adventure you’d have spruced it up with the likes of harpoon guns, torpedo missiles as well as a regenerating shield. You’ll need these upgrades though – not only to survive the lingering threats but to also progress from area to area.
This is where The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human shares similarities with Metroid. Whilst you’re given the freedom to explore the map as you please, you’ll find some areas are inaccessible until you obtain the relevant tool to progress. Thick seaweed blocking your path? You’ll need a saw for that. How about pipes blasting out erosive gas? Nothing a boost won’t help you get through. Besides pre-defined tools that are essential in order to complete the game, you can also find upgrades along the way that will improve stats such as health and movement speed. These upgrades are well hidden and aren’t compulsory, but you’ll certainly find surviving the countless hazards you face all the more easier with them. One thing I’d recommend finding are the elusive ‘triple harpoons’ – a weapon that will certainly make your life easier in some of the later boss battles.
Besides Metroid, I’d mentioned at the start of the review that The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human also shares similarities to Shadow Of The Colossus – this is evident in the many boss encounters you face. There’s eleven boss fights in total, each offering a unique, well designed battle that challenges both your wits and your survival skills. Given the sea setting, it’s no surprise that the bosses you encounter follow a marine life theme – you’ll face off against the likes of seahorses, an octopus and sharks, among many more different sea beasts. Whilst these may not seem like imposing foes, when you consider that they’re absolutely huge and make your submarine look tiny, the threat is all the more real in-game. The fact that they’re tough as nails to take down adds to that threat too, resulting in epic battles that will not only offer moments of sheer elation with each victory, but also verses of profanities and thrown controllers with each death.
Yes, it’s a difficult game, but it never feels unfair. There’s always a way to beat a boss, even if it isn’t apparent immediately. The open world nature of the game means you can tackle the bosses in any order (well, those you can access anyway) so sometimes you may not take them on in what might be considered the correct order. It’s funny – on one occasion I came across a boss that kept DESTROYING me, so I figured I must’ve been missing something and ventured on and found the next boss, only to find that he was even more difficult. I’d then returned to the previous boss and worked out a method to beat him and unlock a new upgrade that would help me defeat the other boss. It’s testing, but so very satisfying.
Outside of the boss battles, there isn’t much else that’ll threaten humanity’s existence. While there are environmental hazards such as the aforementioned erosive gas or even snapping giant clams, battling is restricted to boss fights only. Whilst the environment is bustling with life with countless streams of fish weaving in and out around you, none are actually a threat to your life. That doesn’t mean you can’t take them out though – if you’re feeling particularly evil, that is. Otherwise the countless jellyfish, whales and… fish (unfortunately my marine life knowledge is restricted to Finding Nemo) will leave you alone.
Whilst traversing between boss battles is fairly peaceful and stress free, there’s a lot of backtracking that takes place. You’ll constantly be returning to previous areas when you’ve unlocked a new ability, and whilst there is a fast-travel system in place it isn’t always that accessible, resulting in monotonous journeys between previously visited screens. The game doesn’t always point you in the right direction of where to go either, meaning sometimes you’re aimlessly wandering as you seek out the next boss battle or upgrade.
Fortunately, the world of The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human is a real treat to explore. The pixel art is fantastic and manages to make what should be the lifeless, derelict remains of Earth look utterly beautiful. The attention to detail is fantastic too, with sunken ships, destroyed buildings, skeletal remains and luscious fauna spanning across the seabed. The more eagle eyed gamer will notice other neat additions too, such as a McDonalds sign as well as what can only be the remains of the Statue of Liberty torch.
There’s so much variety between each area you visit, with some featuring lifeless, dull tones and others bright, vibrant colours – it’s a credit to developers YCJY that they’ve managed to add so much variety to the underwater setting. Besides the setting, enemy design is simply amazing too – The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human is home to some fantastic looking bosses.
The cherry on top of the cake is the fantastic soundtrack on offer. Whilst the game creates a great atmosphere initially with ambience noise and the sound of whirling bubbles as fish glide past you, when the music starts to kick in you won’t help but to feel impressed. There’s such a strong variety too that conveys the many emotions you might feel when playing the game – there’s uplifting pieces as you begin your grand adventure, but also more melancholic pieces for the game’s sullen moments. Whatever the mood, the soundtrack is superb and will keep you entertained from start to finish.
I went into The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human with absolutely no expectations – I’d only actually heard about the game a week before release. What a catastrophe it would’ve been if I missed out on it. The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human excels in all areas, offering an interesting story, fantastic boss battles and incredible art and sound design. I’ve already started my second playthrough and have made countless (failed) attempts on the ‘Boss Rush’ mode that unlocks when you complete the game.
If you’re a fan of Metroid, buy it. If you’re a fan of Shadow Of The Colossus, buy it. Actually, if you’re a fan of gaming – just buy it. The game offers a pure experience that’s enjoyable from start to finish – The Aquatic Adventure Of The Last Human really is the first ‘must own’ title of 2016.
– Enjoyable, tense boss battles
– An interesting story that’ll keep you intrigued until the end
– Fantastic pixel work and environment design
– Great soundtrack that conveys many emotions
– Some players may be put off by difficulty
– A lot of backtracking
Format Reviewed: PC (Alienware Alpha i7)