Abyss (DSiWare)

Game Review

Abyss Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Fun but lacking depth

Abyss is almost an archetypically simple game. There are no modes, power-ups, online features or options, and every face button performs the same action. The premise is correspondingly uncomplicated: as the charmingly named deep-sea submarine “Nep2no”, you'll float through close-quartered underwater stages, avoiding the walls and collecting six glowing “Gaia stones” before heading to the exit. It's really as simple as that, but tight controls and a wonderful deep-sea ambiance turn this concept into a distinctly enjoyable DSiWare title.

Your cyclopean submarine controls similarly to the helium-borne hero of Balloon Fight in that light, skillful taps on the throttle are needed to maneuver delicately around the levels. The face buttons accelerate Nep2no in the direction it's facing, and the D-pad or shoulder buttons rotate the sub. Holding down the accelerator will send you flying dangerously fast very quickly, and since the game is all about guiding your craft safely around the ocean, mastering the flutter-press is key. Luckily, everything's very responsive and swinging Nep2no in and out of harm's way feels great.

The levels are well designed and perfect in length – large enough to feel like you're exploring a bit, but small enough that you can keep track of where you've been. Each mission takes just a minute or two to complete, making Abyss well suited for quick dive sessions. Later levels add both gently floating environmental hazards and some nice visual variety, but also seem to take the focus away from exploring and encourage more linear play.

Atmosphere can make a huge difference in a game, as is the case here. It's something that Abyss really gets right, due in large part to the excellent music. There are only a handful of background tracks, but they set exactly the right tone for your underwater exploration. It's relaxing, understated, and evokes both electronic and organic sources of inspiration.

The visual presentation isn't going to blow you away, but then that wouldn't be in keeping with Abyss' style; while they're not technically impressive, the graphics are atmospheric, with lots of soft blues and seagreens to make you feel like you're exploring the depths of the ocean. There are some unexpected touches too: every mission starts by zooming out from Nep2no's single eye, which sounds odd but goes a long way towards endearing you to the little submarine. Similarly, the ring of light emanating from Nep2no, which diminishes with time and is recharged by collected Gaia stones, is a really nice effect. The relative power of the light can make the ocean feel barren or hospitable from moment to moment, and adds a lot to the aesthetic.

Since there aren't any time limits, and Nep2no's light will dim but never fully expire, Abyss can be quite a relaxing game. For those divers looking to play for keeps, however, it saves the eight best times for each mission, and lets you initial them for bragging rights. Beating your best times can be fun, especially since controlling your sub by design becomes more difficult the faster you go. With a risk-reward system built into the control scheme, high-score junkies should get some good replay value here. Otherwise, the offering is a bit on the short side, with twelve missions and no extra modes. It's certainly fun while it lasts, but Abyss would definitely benefit from an extended mission set.


Abyss is, more than a little ironically, not deep. It is, however, a simple game done well, and quite a lot of fun to play. It doesn't bring anything particularly innovative to the table and it's not a lengthy adventure, but with solid gameplay, wonderful music, and a 200 point price tag, Abyss is a fun and surprisingly atmospheric trip below the surface.

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User Comments (20)



KingDunsparce said:

Great review. I wouldn't have thought it was that great of a game by its cover, but you shouldn't judge a book by its cover



Klinny said:

Thanks for the review, this will really help me decide whether I'll give Abyss a try or not. I'm a little disappointed by the lack of depth, but at 2 dollars it's difficult to complain.



WhiteTrashGuy said:

Agreed. I was expecting around 10 - 20 levels, but thought they would be more of th 5 - 10 minute length. Have $6 on my account, so I might have to wait.



WaxxyOne said:

Man, these are the kinds of games I hate seeing on the eShop. Not because they're bad games, but because they're so cheap and short that you feel like you're buying a demo but with no full game available now or in the future. The atmosphere and gameplay of this game really appeal to me, but I'm going to have to stay away because all it's going to do if I play this is make me want a whole lot more than this game has to offer.



grumblegrumble said:

I got this, and I kinda agree with the review but i would give it more a 6/10 or 5/10 score. It's okay, not great, and on my 3DS XL the screen looks extra choppy (I know that's supposed to be the design of the game but it looks a little like overkill on my system.) Also, no extra content besides the 12 missions is a bad thing these days. Its a good download if you have $2 to blow and wanna play something new, but don't expect huge replay value.



rayword45 said:

@grumblegrumble You can't a judge a DSi game's graphics on a 3DS XL, where obviously the thing is going to be MORE pixelated then an original 3DS (unless you're talking about original resolution mode).

I'm also considering this due to EnjoyUp Games' consistent record, but how long would the game take to beat overall (incuding deaths). I know 10-Second Run has about 9 minutes of content but actually takes around the same amount of time as games like Escapee GO including deaths.



ouroborous said:

Very bare-bones programming but that's what we've come to expect from the $1.99 price tag games on the eShop. However, its a fun game with wonderful deep-sea ambiance. The music is great, control is very simple, there are no tutorials or instructions but you can figure it out in a second anyway. If you liked Solar Jetman for NES, you will feel right at home with this game. It's nice to finally see something that reminds me of Solar Jetman as it was a great (if not perfect) game with it's own exploration-of-space/planets ambiance. Granted you're not schlepping ship parts around in Abyss, but the control scheme feels very similar. All-in-all I'd say it's a great game for $2 especially since it's been a while since anything original and interesting has been on eShop, in my opinion.



kurtasbestos said:

Hmmm.. I was looking forward to this one, and it sounds like I'd enjoy it, but only 12 levels sounds like once I'm done with it I'll probably never touch it again.



zipmon said:

@rayword45 It took me one lazy day (playing off and on) to get to Mission 12, and some of the earlier levels took me way more tries than the later ones to clear! Personally speaking, I certainly felt like I got $2 worth of fun out of the game; but I know there are people who just prefer longer experiences, irrespective of price.



Windy said:

I'm going to take a shot on this one too. No high hopes for it. I did like the review and will download tonight and give it my own test drive. At least it's a Cheapy



Philip_J_Reed said:

It's nice to finally see something that reminds me of Solar Jetman

I was thinking the same thing.



atariman said:

can you believe that this exciteing game got only a 7? I was so excited to get it, and right before I do, I find out that it got a 7. so I'm not getting it.



zipmon said:

@atariman Oh, a 7 is a good score! Literally, it refers to "good" in our scoring policy. If you're excited about it I bet you'll enjoy it. Like I said, it doesn't last for too long, but is definitely fun while it does! =)

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