Developer: SCE Bend Studio | Year: 2012 | List Price: $39.99 | Buy from Amazon
Uncharted is a franchise that I’ve always found interesting and intriguing. I’ve never played any of the console games, but as of 1 a.m. this morning, I’ve officially Platinum’d the series’ handheld entry, Golden Abyss. Originally a PS Vita launch game, Golden Abyss was the poster child of its original “console quality on-the-go” slogan. While it’s no longer the most impressive game on the system, it still offers a great experience, marred only slightly by some rather annoying gimmicks.
Golden Abyss puts the player in the shoes of Nathan Drake, archaeologist, parkour master, and apparent mass murderer at-large. The story takes place before any of the PS3 Uncharted games, so there’s no worry if you’ve never played an Uncharted game before. Drake is on an expedition to research some ancient Quivirian ruins and finds himself caught in a more nefarious plot. The story doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, but is still wholly entertaining, feeling like an Indiana Jones narrative in many ways. The other characters fall into tropes but are altogether still pretty believable, thanks in part to some above-average voice acting. On the whole, I really enjoyed the mix of action and storytelling that Golden Abyss provides.
Golden Abyss’ gameplay is really great as well. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to the shooting and traversal mechanics, but it’s just fun. There’s not a whole lot of realism: you can jump 20m gaps, withstand multiple headshots, and heal yourself — but that’s the thing! Uncharted is one of those games that forgoes realism to make a great experience. It’s also one of the most linear games I’ve played; when you stray even slightly off the beaten path, you can feel the game nudging you back on track. But that’s all part of Golden Abyss’ charm. It delivers a tight, seamless experience that’s focused on a singular goal for its entirety.
Being a launch title, Golden Abyss comes with lots of gimmicks that really detract from the experience. You’ll be swiping the screen to melee enemies, and this’d be fine if it actually worked. On harder difficulties, the window of opportunity for the swipes and the precision needed to pull them off caused me hours of frustration. Slightly less intrusive are the minigames and puzzles that utilise the Vita’s features, such as cleaning artefacts and doing charcoal rubbings, but they still get annoying from time to time. I especially hated one mini-game that had you shine a light into the Vita’s camera. I had my Vita sitting beside a naked lightbulb for over 5 minutes before it finally registered. Finally, there are these collectibles called bounties that are a random drop, unless you happen to be using the Vita’s “near” function to get them from other players. Since “near” is almost never used by anyone these days, you’ll have to grind for them to get their respective trophies, something which I was doing into the early hours of this morning, when I finally popped Golden Abyss’ plat.
Graphics are also something that was probably more impressive upon release. They’re not horrible, but there is a noticeable halo around characters and they’re all sort of in the “uncanny valley” — almost realistic but not quite enough. The environments and vistas are gorgeous though. You’ll be hiking, climbing, and shooting for at least 10 hours through this adventure, and the visuals never get tired. Drake’s movements all look natural, to the point of feeling almost laggy, as you can see him deliberately following your commands, but it has the effect of making almost everything, even outside of cutscenes, look cinematic, something that can’t be overstated on a portable system.
Something that older Uncharted fans might miss is a variety of settings: Golden Abyss is set in a Central American jungle from start to finish. But I didn’t really find that detracted from the experience; in fact, it only added to the tightness I felt worked in Golden Abyss’ favour. Golden Abyss may not be the console-sized experience Sony hoped it would be, but I don’t think it really needed to be to be fun. If anything, I enjoyed it more because it didn’t come with a whole lot of baggage. The bottom line is, you don’t have to be an Uncharted fan to like Golden Abyss.
Design: 8/10 The setting and plot aren’t creative or groundbreaking, but Drake’s romp through the tropical rainforest is entertaining, with fun supporting characters and well-done dialogue.
Visuals: 8/10 Golden Abyss was one of the better-looking Vita launch games, and it still holds up three years later, though it’s since been overshadowed by the likes of Killzone Mercenary. Environments look great, but characters fall just short of realism.
Sound: 9/10 No one really talks about this game’s music, but I noticed some of the cinematic scores to be quite good upon replaying the game for my Platinum. Voice acting is really a strong point of the game, which is fortuitous, considering how much you’ll be hearing it.
Gameplay: 8/10 Running around and shooting thugs is really addictive, and there’s tons of goodies to collect. The gunplay is generally on point, even if I did find headshots to be a little wonky here and there. Gimmicks do bring the game down in places, but they’re usually not during high-action sequences anyway.
Value: 9/10 Golden Abyss may have been overpriced ($40) at launch, but it’s at a low enough price-point (~$20) now that I’d go so far to say it’s a must-try for anyone who has a Vita. The campaign’ll last you around 10-12 hours, and though there’s no explicit reason why you might replay the game, I didn’t find my two subsequent playthroughs to get the Platinum too tiring.
Total: 42/50 (B)
List Price: $39.99 | Buy from Amazon
I bought 10 games (10!) for something like $9 because of the Flash Sale on PSN this weekend: Dead Nation, Myst, Gravity Rush, Wild Arms, Syphon Filter, Mutant Blobs Attack!, Breath of Fire IV, Mega Man X4, Mega Man X5, and Home: A Unique Horror Adventure. How many of those I’m actually gonna play … that’s a different question! though I 100%’d Home just today. But I’m excited to try Gravity Rush, Wild Arms, and the Mega Man PlayStation games.
I’m not too sure what I’ll be writing about next, but you can bet I’ll be back real soon with another review of something probably videogame related. Until then, check out our other videogame articles here, and see an always-up-to-date ranked list of my favourite games of all time!