The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human takes place in the distant future. The planet, having suffered a drastic change in climate, is now nothing more than a frozen wasteland. Humans are forced to live underwater below the frozen surface layer, in which they continue to grow food and harvest energy. During a period in time in which resources had began to dwindle, sub-aquatic spaceships were dispatched to a nearby wormhole in an attempt to seek out habitable planets. Several thousands of years later, ship Argo9 has finally returned. This is your role in the game. You play the part of the last human survivor and must spend your time on Earth trying to piece together what has happened.
Metroidvania games often reward players through exploration, and this game is no different. You start out with a basic submarine that doesn’t particularly feel worthy of its cause. However, as time goes on you’ll eventually unlock new upgrades for your ship. Insomniac Games’ Song of the Deep is probably the best title to compare this with. Both games have you exploring the depths of the ocean in search of answers. Whilst Song of the Deep is arguably the most well rounded experience out of the two, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human still manages to stand tall on its own unique merits. The story is mostly relayed to the player through logs and observation.
On this front alone I found the game’s pacing to be well developed. Unfortunately I cant quite commend the delivery of it to the same extent. The story never quite feels as desperate and as important as it should, leaving the weight of intrigue and engagement elsewhere. Speaking of the pace, the game does a good job at slowly feeding you into the adventure without compromising much of the fun. You have full directional control, making it much easier to bob and weave around the environment. Progression is typically gated by either barriers or large lifeforms that each need disposing of with the use of specific equipment. The submarine can be kitted out with a sizable pool of upgrades and conventional weaponry, most of which can only be located through paying close attention to your immediate environments.
The gameplay mechanics remain simplistic from the get-go, with the only exception being that boss battles tend to offer more emphasis on shooting elements than anything else within. These battles can fluctuate in difficulty, but they all ensure that you’re working hard for your victory. Oddly enough I found the initial boss battles to pose more of a challenge than the latter boss battles, simply due to the fact that your starter tools are agonizingly tedious to gel with. Metroidvania games should always ensure that these sorts of encounters are memorable and exciting, but I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t equally as frustrated during some of these sequences. In any case they are indeed well implemented for the most part, it’s just a shame they don’t always scale with your capabilities.
Traversal becomes more fluid as you unlock new upgrades. These upgrades can range from mandatory attachments, such as the aforementioned harpoon or the torpedo, to optional upgrades that will bump up your health and speed. Many of these upgrades will be required to unlock and access new areas on the vast map, but the game doesn’t really try to break new ground as far as this aspect is concerned. I’ve made a point that I favored the pace of play, but it would have been nice to see more to the structure of the gameplay, rather than seeing it rely on the already tried and tested formula. On the other hand it is quite satisfying to witness your sub growing in agility and power as you move through the game.
Despite the solid map design, the pixel art doesn’t do much to excite. I’m a big fan of pixel art and I cant say that I was all too impressed with the display. Some sections of the game certainly stand out in comparison to other sections, but nothing really took me by surprise and stood out. More background details and a few more animations would have helped to alleviate this, but instead everything just seems flat. On the flip-side I did quite enjoy the enemy design, which seems to be where most of the artwork focus was spent. The same can be said about the soundtrack, which often hits and misses the mark periodically.
Possibly the biggest drawback in The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is the lack of guidance. It’s never made entirely clear as to what you should be doing or where you should be going. This leads to a lot of needless backtracking in the hopes that you will finally suss out the next piece of the (what I call) progression puzzle. This design choice hurts what should have been an otherwise enticing experience, and dishes up something less engaging as a result. This is further hindered by the lack of side objectives and exploration opportunities. Games of this type usually throw in hidden secrets and hidden pathways that leads to somewhere exclusive, but that seems to be absent in this game. Sure, there are several path branches, but as far as I could tell they all take you to the same point. It’s a shame really because The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human undoubtedly had potential, but seems to have traded that potential for a bog standard experience. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it hardly does much to stand out.
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is as basic as they come. The theme and setting may well be intriguing in concept, but much less so in delivery. Nearly every gameplay element within has been tried and tested to a better degree elsewhere. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it doesn’t do much to separate itself from the crowd.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.