While the metroidvania genre is one of my favorites, it is also one of the more saturated game genres, and there are just so many competing titles to choose from. The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is one of those metroidvanias but with an interesting twist. Inferred by the title, you are the last human alive and you set off to explore the now submerged metropolitan areas of earth in a submarine. The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human has nearly no standard enemies, but instead the bulk of the game is pure exploration as well as clashes with legendary bosses. I quite like this take; the lonely and somber feel of the ocean starkly contrasts the intense boss battles. In a way, this format is very similar to the classic Shadow of the Colossus style.
The single best feature of The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is hands down it’s totally free exploration. Even compared to other metroidvanias it is far more free and open then many of its contemporaries. The player is free to explore wherever and however they want. For the most part, you tackle the bosses in any order you desire. Most of your time will spent just be gliding through the ocean finding different paths to explore. In classic metroidvania fashion, as you defeat bosses you unlock more upgrades, weapons, and tools to explore deeper into the submerged city. Using saws to cut through overgrowth, torpedoes to blast through rocks, and harpoons to trigger switches are regular methods of exploration in The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human. The one issue I have with the exploration in this game is its world map. Instead of a comprehensive layout of all the different paths, the map is just a bunch of connected squares. So, opening the map to find the best route to where you want to go is ineffective and confusing.
It is unfortunate that The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is certainly lacking in the gameplay department. There are a few obstacles in your way as you progress through the abyss, but no enemies other than bosses. It is unfortunate then that while those bosses are incredibly creative and visually interesting that the fights can be long, drawn out and frustrating experiences. This is simply due to the unpolished and frankly amateur game design decisions. The first being that there are nearly no invincibility frames when you get hit. Most games give the player a small frame of time after getting hit to get out of danger, but that is not the case here. This coupled with the insane knockback when the player gets hit leads to being frustratingly ping-ponged between enemies until you die. Moreover, there is an intense screen-shake when the player takes a hit, which combined with the knockback is incredibly disorientating. A single hit often leads to death, and it feels like you can do nothing about it. The next issue is that nearly boss has a 1-hit-kill move, some are intentional and some I believe were mistakes. The intentional ones are fine, for instance a giant laser that is obviously telegraphed and gives plenty of time to react. On the other hand, there are some instances which lead to instant death that feel unintentional. For example: a swarm of small sharks surrounds you and you get bumped around without any recourse. These instances often feel like cheap shots that instantly kill the player. Since there is such a minute amount of combat it should be far more polished. Often times The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human just feels unfair.
While the two crutches of this game are its open exploration and boss battles, there are a few more factors to talk about. The art style in this game is heavy pixelated and is reminiscent of pixel-art, but it is odd that the pixels are not uniform in size. If you are just exploring and not focusing too hard, this art choice was fine. In boss battles, however, the screen can feel cluttered and there is a lack of visual clarity. I had to physical strain to see many of the projectiles and threats. Finally, the narrative is fairly bareboned. The vast majority of any story comes from hidden holotapes across the sea floor. There is no guarantee that you find them, and the ones you do find are out of order. I suppose it could be interesting to piece together a cryptic narrative, but the game beats you over the head with its environmentalist motif.
In its entirety, The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human has a difficult time measuring up to other modern metroidvanias. In such a heavily saturated genre, this game fails to stand out in a meaningful way. I think that it certainly has the potential to be a great game if the gameplay had been polished further, but otherwise I cannot recommend it when there are so many other wonderful games in the genre. That being said, if you are a fan of the genre it is a relatively quick game that can sate the metroidvania hunger. For these reasons I give the Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human a 6/10. The juxtaposition of the calm and flourishing ocean compared to the intense boss battles is a compelling concept, but the amount of “cheap shots” that the game throws at the player grows tiresome fairly quickly.