Minimalism in gaming can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the simple idea can be easy to grasp and quicker to enjoy, but without some sort of depth, simplicity quickly becomes tedium. Abyss straddles the line between enjoyment and boredom, regularly tipping towards the latter.
For a start, there is no narrative to speak of, unless you read the incredibly small digital manual. In the far future, you control a small submersible device named Nep2no, collecting spheres of a new energy resource named Gaia. This resource is deep underwater, located in dark and perilous caverns, and the tight space of this environment, along with the fragile nature of your craft, is where Abyss’ challenge comes in.
Being underwater, Nep2no isn’t the easiest of things to handle. Controlled by turning left and right and engaging your thrusters with the A button (not that the manual or game will tell you this, as you need to figure this out), the water current is constantly dragging you down – think Nintendo’s Balloon Fight, and you almost have the idea. You’ll quickly realise that small movements are the order of the day, and considering there is no time limit as such, patience is key in order to collect the six required Gaia spheres and find the exit to each of the 12 short levels that comprise the main game.
Although there’s no real time limit, the levels are dark, mainly lit by Nep2no’s own light source, which constantly depletes and needs to be replenished by collecting Gaia. This adds a miniscule amount of urgency, but still gives you plenty of time to get where you need to. Even with the challenging controls, you’ll probably whizz through these levels in an hour or two. Then, you’ll be able to access the Dark Gaia mode, where 8 Gaia are required instead of 6 and the levels are harder. An arcade time trial mode is also available, but does little to increase longevity; as with the main game, high scores are offline only, giving you little reason to replay levels other than to beat your own score. A 2-player mode is also available, where one player uses the GamePad, and the other uses the TV and Wiimote, but it’s nothing special.
You can play Abyss on the TV or GamePad, but the simplistic graphics look equally dull on either. You’ll also have to get used to the same couple of atmospheric tracks playing throughout, which suit the “action” but ultimately get as repetitive as the game itself.
VERDICT: Abyss is as “OK” as a game gets. Presentation and gameplay-wise, it’s very unmemorable, and there’s not really any particularly reason for recommending this eShop purchase, save for its very low price. For better or worse, it’s a game that harks back to a very old-school style, but there just isn’t enough of a hook to satisfy the player.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.