As somebody who loves the challenge of a tough game, it’s fair to say that slower atmospheric games aren’t generally aimed at people like me. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy something more laid back occasionally though, especially if it appeals to me in other ways. After Us manages to do just that, due to the fact that it’s a 3D platformer full of adorable animals.
The world isn’t doing so good in After Us. The impact of humans has decimated the planet, and all that’s left is a wasteland of abandoned cars and pylons. As Gaia, it’s your task to restore the light to this place, bring back the extinct life, and deal with the devourers who roam this desolate land. It’s a simple story to tell, but a hell of an important one.
To help restore this world you’ll need to find the spirits of the last animals and set them free, be it the last whale harpooned or the last eagle put into a cage. Getting around is difficult though, thanks to all those destroyed landscapes and surfaces coated in oil. Thankfully Gaia has some tricks up her sleeve to navigate this apocalyptic environment, and might just be able to save it from total disaster.
It doesn’t take too long for Gaia to gain all the movement abilities you’ll need to start saving the day. With a double jump, a glide and an air dash, hopping from floating car to floating car is a breeze. Controlling Gaia feels pretty great, and she’s just floaty enough to ensure that there aren’t a whole lot of platforming problems that’ll test you unless you start looking for secrets.
After Us has possibly the best collectables in any 3d platformer I’ve ever played. There ain’t no pointless shiny doodads here, instead you’ll be locating the spirits of animals and releasing them to wander the world in a spectral form. What makes this so special, is that for every species of animal you save you’ll get to see them pottering around the world. Seeing an adorable family of boar marching along and knowing that they wouldn’t be there without you is incredibly satisfying, and brings this tragic place to life as you play.
The animal spirits are usually squirreled away in hard to reach corners, but you can find them easily thanks to your singing abilities. Any time you sing blue sparks with appear around Gaia, and float in the direction of the nearest spirit. It’s a great way to ensure you don’t miss a thing, but knowing where a spirit is located doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have an easy time getting to it.
In the ninety minutes of After Us I was able to play for this preview, I was able to unlock a couple of extra movement abilities that made exploring even more enjoyable. Wall running on certain walls makes climbing cliffs a breeze, and grinding on rails that you grow vines on is particularly satisfying. I imagine as you progress further there will be plenty more upgrades to improve Gaia too, because they came thick and fast in the portion I played.
Once you can get to more places with your handy new powers the only thing stopping you from exploring is the oil. This coats all sorts of surfaces thanks to those pesky humans, and prevents you from getting around easily. Thankfully the mysterious god voice guiding you provides a solution for that too, granting you the power to send out a pulse that paints all surfaces nearby with lush grass. Not only does this look cool when applied to cars and pylons, but it makes them easy to walk on too.
There is one more threat left on Earth that needs to be dealt with, and that’s the Devourers. These monsters were once humans, but after greedily taking all the resources from the planet they’ve become violent husks. Combat with them was pretty simple in the early game, and just involved stunning, dodging and attacking. It was enjoyable enough dealing with these sinister creatures though, and I’d happily dispatch a few more going forward.
It’s worth mentioning that although After Us looks fairly open in screenshots, you actually follow a fairly linear path to progress in the game. I personally much prefer this to a big empty environment, and there’s still a little freedom there too when you get to choose which branching path to take next. The level design has been really good so far, both visually and from a gameplay perspective.
After Us isn’t your typical 3D platformer, with a beautiful atmosphere and an important message to share. It may not be as twitchy and challenging as a lot of its peers, but I’m really looking forward to saving all the animals when it releases later this month.
After Us is coming to PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S|X on May 23rd.