IT’S the end of the world as we know it. Humanity has continued down its path of ignoring the signs of global warming and now we are left with nothing. Well, that is my take on After Us by Piccolo Studio as you will never really be given a backstory and everything is open to interpretation.
In After Us, you play the role of Gaia, the spirit of life as you are awoken and tasked with traversing what is left of the world while trying to salvage what is left.
From the offset I was taken back by the landscape of the first area you will enter into. This post-apocalyptic wasteland is devoid of life with the shells of humanity scattered across the lands. As you delve further into the area, all these bodies will get in your way as you dodge and weave your way through them attempting to follow the trail.
I will admit when I saw this game shown off at The Game Awards back in 2022, I thought and hoped that it would be something like the PlayStation 3 exclusive Journey back in 2013. So when I looked over the map and explored I was a bit taken aback by the lack of flow and freedom that was offered in Journey. Sure in After Us, there are a few collectables that take you off the beaten track, but the path was fairly linear in its design.
Opening the map would reveal a line that would point you towards the next direction as well as offer tips on where to locate the next spirits of the animals that used to roam the lands. This is where you will spend most of your time thinking and working out how to get to these areas, as after they are located, they will then be visible throughout the rest of your journey.
Speaking of the map, when you open it up it will look a bit like a star constellation with images of other animals that will be the main goal of where the path leads you. Along these paths are also checkpoint areas where you can repair by calling out an explosion of nature which is mostly grass. You can return to these checkpoints whenever you like if you are in the zone travelling the lands or just can’t find that hard-to-find spirits.
The story in After Us plays very coy and is very open to interpretation. There are no real cutscenes throughout your journey apart from the occasional text-based chatter and when you enter a new area. Instead, in addition to the spirits of animals, you will also be on the lookout for hidden areas that will drip-feed images of the past that will attempt to tell a story of what happened in the area you are currently roaming.
Now for my favourite part of After Us, the platforming. With all the leftovers in this wasteland, each area will offer diverse puzzles and areas to get to. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few collectibles to be on the lookout for during your time. While you can skip them altogether, that will take away the challenge and fun of the skills learnt of how to get to these areas. I won’t lie, some of them are easy, whereas some of them can be downright frustrating. There were many times I was stuck trying to work out how to get to my next destination. While the map helps, you will rely on a song that you can sing out that will give you directions on the general area you will be looking for without needing to revert to your map all the time.
Platforming will consist mainly of double jumping, dashing, wall running and surfing long wires. This is made simple by the controls as there are no special combos or anything you will need to learn. Equally as simple is combat in the game. You will find characters referred to as ‘The Devourers’ in some areas and you can be swarmed really quickly where you will need to either yell out with your cleansing skill which will knock them back, dodge to keep your distance and shoot them with your light beam. After Us did a really great job of breaking up these moments throughout the game keeping you guessing in each area you visit.
I must say, at the start of the game I was a bit worried but as I got further into the game I became much more captivated by the storytelling and diverse areas it offered. The soundtrack was peaceful and stressful when it needed to be. While the story is not as straightforward as some people may like, the open-minded approach that After Us offers gives you the ability to interpret it as you, please. With the many different areas the map offers and the end-of-day graphical style the game offers, gamers will be in for a good time with this one. Especially those who enjoy an interesting platform title.
After Us was reviewed on the Xbox Series X and is available on Xbox Series consoles, PlayStation 5 and Steam on the 24th of May 2023.