Here are our impressions on Piccolo Studio’s emotional platformer.
When humanity meets its end what will be left of Earth? This is the question Piccolo Studio’s platforming adventure title, After Us, looks to answer. As Gaia, the Spirit of Life, you are tasked with sprinting, jumping, airdashing, and rail-grinding your way across the surreal and barren planet while freeing the souls of extinct animals. Along the way you’ll encounter the monstrous Devourers, countless tear-jerking moments, and a lot of somber, yet beautiful, scenery.
In our hands-on time with the game we were met with all this on top of a wonderfully unique and expressive gameplay core that proved After Us is a great addition to the pantheon of platformers.
A unique powerkit
Bring life back into the world: Gaia is the Spirit of Life, bestowed with the ability to bring beauty back into a world consumed by a dark void. Pressing L2 fires a boomerang-like orb of light, used to retrieve lost souls, attack enemies, and even make simple wires into green grindable rails. Holding L2 down instead charges her with light and upon release unleashes a blast of bright energy that replaces untraversable goop-covered land with safe grass and fauna to traverse.
Battle the dark with life: Not only is Gaia’s power used to return greenery into the world and unlock secrets, but it can be used to defeat dark hordes of enemies as well. The Devourers, oil-covered monstrosities that trap souls, wait beyond many corners. To free the trapped souls Gaia must use her boomerang-like spirit ball to fight back while using her superb movement options to avoid their attacks.
Platforming in a post-human world
Free, expressive platforming: Gaia can jump to various heights, double jump, dash through the air, float, wall run, and rail grind through the world. Putting all these together allows players to freely express themselves no matter the challenge encountered. Those that master these movement options never have to stop moving on the journey to free the animal spirits.
An open-world platformer journey: You don’t have to stick to one path when soul-searching in After Us. The world is crafted masterfully and encourages completing tasks in whichever way you want. Want to use your airdash to reach a floating car to skip over a dangerous street? Or maybe you saw a far-off island you’d rather detour towards? The direction you take exploring this platforming wasteland is up to you.
Challenges aplenty: Around every corner is a new trial to tackle and it’s up to you to triumph over each of them. This includes puzzle-platform challenges where you must put your platforming skills to the test in tandem with Gaia’s special life-force powers.
Many require combining Gaia’s movement and attack options – such as jumping over a large gap while perfectly timing an energy burst to create a plant-covered path. Other challenges push players to react to their environment to create rail grinding and wall run opportunities. Just be ready for incoming plastic bags that seek to stop your momentum and impede on your progress.
An emotional journey
You can pet the dog, cat, raccoon, horse, and more: After Us is a game with a message that we are responsible for the innocent animals of the planet. Not only is Gaia’s job to free the trapped spirits of the extinct critters of the planet, but she can comfort them with a pet using the DualSense controller’s touchpad once they’re saved.
There will be tears: After Us presents players with a unique vision of a post-human Earth. You’ll find statues of humans that once were, presenting a visual of their last moments. This feature is shared by some animals, some that passed away due to simple loneliness and sadness. Freeing these souls not only gives a bittersweet ending to a sad tale, but it also gives you a vision of their memories before the end of the world. Yet another turn on the emotional rollercoaster.
A beautifully empty world: While thematically somber, the surreal world of After Us is filled with beautiful visuals that will have you taking a breather to enjoy. From floating roads to Babylon-like post-apocalyptic cities and crumbling buildings that signify a civilization that once was, the world around Gaia and her mission makes venturing this sad world a joy.
The journey to save the last spirits on Earth starts when After Us releases May 23, 2023 for PS5.