After Us is a platform adventure game that has the player guide Gaia’s light through a decimated Earth ravaged by pollution. The game was developed by Piccolo Studio for next gen consoles and the game offers a touching story about love and hope restoring a once polluted world. While this game might not be on everyone’s wish list for the year it does offer an almost calming experience with stunning visuals and shocking imagery to keep players invested in learning more about what exactly caused the end of the world. Should people invest their time into playing this game however, yes and allow me to explain why.
Humans have polluted the planet, leaving everyone and everything destroyed. The world has become sick to the point where all the living creatures on the planet have died out and turned to stone. It has even gotten so bad that the very foundations of the planet are either covered in pollution or falling apart. The player takes control of Gaia’s light in the form of a tiny girl as she traverses the world in hopes of restoring life to the planet. While human life might be completely extinct, there is hope for the plants and animals as their spirits can be restored through the power of Gaia’s Burst of Life. However, this journey will not be easy as the world has become corrupted to the point where even the pollution itself has seemingly come to life, and will do its best to stop Gaia from restoring life to the planet. On top of that many of the people have also been corrupted by the pollution and have turned into creatures known as Devourers who will attempt to snuff out her light. It is up to Gaia to restore the once extinct animals and plants so that she can restore life to the planet before the pollution can snuff out all life from it.
The gameplay for After Us has many controls and abilities that become available as the player progresses the game to help players traverse the different polluted regions of the world. Players are able to jump and glide after double jumping, so that Gaia can glide for a short distance. Gaia can sprint which will later also become the trigger for the wall ride ability which allows her to run up specific surfaces as well as when done in the air it activates an Air Dash which is helpful when trying to get across far away gaps.
Gaia can activate abilities that help defend against the pollution and the Devourers that she will face on her journey as well. Holding down the L2 trigger charges up her Radial Burst of Life ability once charged and the trigger is released it will unleash a blast that covers the area with lush green nature that can be used to clear away pollution and disorient the Devourers. The Heart is Gaia’s primary weapon/interaction with the environment. Tapping the trigger will launch her Heart which will go towards wherever or whatever she is facing and will retract when the trigger is tapped again. Gaia also has a singing ability which lets her discover the locations of the extinct animal spirits that act as the collectibles for the game. Finally, the touchpad when swiped right allows Gaia to interact with the spirits she saved by either waving at them from a distance or getting up close and petting specific ones.
The world of After Us is a visually beautiful but grim story filled to the brim with pollution and devastation with no signs of life aside from the Devourers and spirits who suffered from pollution. Each area and spirit tells a visual story of how each region became what they are and the fates of the animals that have become extinct. Everything from the suburbs to the ocean, and even the forest, each tell their own sad tales of devastation caused by the devourers and the pollution caused by humans. While it is not completely open world it is linear and there are points of the game where you will be able to choose your destination, but in the end it all culminates in Gaia, finding the once extinct animal spirits and restoring them so that they can bring back life to the dying world.
After Us does feature collectibles, such as other animal spirits that can be collected by using Gaia’s heart ability or memories that are obtained upon defeating a specific amount of Devourers. Defeating them allows the player to obtain images that tell a story from the different perspectives of the people who lived in the world before it became fully polluted. Both collectibles can be discovered by using Gaia’s singing ability which guides the player to where they are via different colored lights, blue being the color for the spirits and yellow being the color of the memories or fast travel points.
Overall, the game is very stunning and beautiful, but it is also plagued with a few gameplay mechanics that might end up frustrating average gamers. While I didn’t experience any technical or visual bugs during my play through there were some gameplay mechanics that were difficult to completely master, especially regarding the traversal and defensive combat of the game. This is especially problematic with the camera which constantly moves around, depending on where you move or go it zooms out when in a massive open area making it difficult to see if you are safely landing or about to fall to your death. However, in spite of that the game was still very fun to play and an overall visually entertaining story.
Overall Grade: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5