The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by YCJY Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2016.
Due to climate change and a waning sun, the water level on Earth has risen and swallowed up the continents, and the surface of the planet has frozen over. As a result, humanity is forced to live underwater. While the humans are still able to grow food and generate electricity, resources are diminishing.

A wormhole has opened near Earth, possibly offering humanity another chance for survival, and in 2971, a sub-aquatic spaceship is sent into the wormhole to seek out a new planet capable of sustaining human life. But unfortunately, mankind is not saved…

When the ship reemerges from the wormhole, thousands of years have passed on Earth, and humanity has gone extinct… well, almost. As the last surviving member of the species, you explore the ruins of civilization to learn what has happened, in The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human.

Despite humanity’s failure to survive, sea life on the planet has flourished, and much of the game is spent trawling the oceanic depths surrounded by a wide array of fish, whales (although it’s unclear how the whales are able to breathe since the planet is covered in a thick layer of ice), and plants. All of these pass harmlessly in front of or behind the player’s ship, although it is possible to kill fish if the player so desires.

The game is a metroidvania, with new areas becoming accessible as upgrades are acquired, although there is a great deal of nonlinearity, allowing the player the freedom to explore the world as he chooses and take on many of the game’s bosses in any order.

Most metroidvania titles pepper the landscape with enemies, challenging the player to fight through them as he explores the environment; here, on the other hand, the player is left with a largely peaceful aquatic world to explore, with no enemies to kill and only environmental obstacles to overcome.

This allows for a slower pace and a calm atmosphere, which is further emphasized by the game’s soundtrack and the visuals, which are presented in desaturated hues… and these muted colors occasionally make it difficult to separate foreground, midground, and background elements.

Along the way, the player encounters some working technology, including holo-tape stations that play back messages when the ship nears. These messages act as the only overt storytelling until the game’s end, providing a window into what happened during the protagonist’s absence in the thousands of years that have passed.

Despite the generally calm explorative nature of the game, the pace changes quickly when the player encounters any of the numerous giant boss creatures. These battles are tough, requiring fast movement and a heavy application of harpoon and/or torpedo fire before these hulking beasts are destroyed.

Bosses mostly appear in the form of several large sea creatures, some of which are quite grotesque, such as a rotting shitting fish that disintegrates as you fight it, and some kind of gelatinous toothed parasite that can split into pieces. Each boss has a gigantic health meter, especially when compared to your own, meaning that they can take a heck of a beating before going down. Many of these creatures’ strongest attacks are capable of destroying the ship in two or three hits, and its hull regenerates very slowly.

Furthermore, the player is offered no invincibility period after taking a hit, so it’s possible to be struck by multiple projectiles in rapid succession, or to be pinned against a wall and killed instantly. As such, it is possible for a single mistake at any point in the battle to result in death, requiring that the player begin the battle again from the start. This repeated gameplay is exacerbated somewhat with a couple of bosses that have lengthy unskippable introductory animations.

Defeating bosses leads the player to a number of ship upgrades, many of which directly impact the player’s ability to explore the environment and reach new areas. Among these is a harpoon that allows the player to aim and fire a projectile in a 180 degree range below the ship, and this is also used to activate switches that open doors. Holding the ATTACK button allows the player to charge the shot and send it farther. The charged shot does the same amount of damage as a regular shot, so players can more effectively fight bosses by getting in closer and unleashing a barrage of short-range shots instead of hanging back and hitting them from a distance.

The ship’s saw attachment doesn’t do much to aid in combat – although it can slice its way through some innocent fishies in a hurry – but it does let you cut through vines that block your path. Torpedoes are strong against many bosses, and they can destroy sea mines and rock-based obstructions, but they can only be fired to the left or right.

There are some passive upgrades as well, and one of the most significant of these is the lamp. At many points in the game, the player enters dark spaces, and the minimap in the upper right corner disappears and is replaced with a message stating: “WARNING! LAMP ADVISED”. These areas are surprisingly dark – to the point where you many want to increase your monitor’s brightness to make out any details – and the removal of the minimap means that you can’t fake your way through.

The presence of insta-death sea mines, giant carnivorous clams, and radioactive sewage makes dark areas especially dangerous. Occasionally, a dim light source will appear to allow the player to fumble forward a bit, and once the player gains the torpedoes, he can fire shots that give off a tiny bit of light and flash the map back up on the screen a quick moment, allowing some progress to be made. Unless the player knows where to look, he will need to cover a surprising amount of dark territory – including some dark boss encounters – before he reaches the lamp upgrade.

Spread throughout the world are a number of optional ship upgrades, including faster harpoon charging, a narrow-firing 3-way harpoon, and explosive projectile enhancements for your torpedoes. In addition, players may uncover permanent health upgrades and faster health regeneration, although some of these are hidden behind false walls, making them quite difficult to find.

The game auto-saves periodically, usually just before boss encounters, but there are also a number of save stations spread throughout the environment, allowing players to save manually and instantly warp between them. This is useful when the player earns a new upgrade and wishes to move quickly back to a previous area to access a new route. Getting killed returns the player to the last save or auto-save, which can be a great distance, but the player retains any collected upgrades even if he dies before reaching a save point.

The save/transfer stations show a simple outline of the world, but there is no comprehensive map, and the player’s progress in the world is not tracked. The game offers a detailed minimap, but this is not translated into a full game map, meaning that the player will need to commit some of the game world to memory. This is made easier by the fact that the world is not terribly large – although some of the layouts are purposely labyrinthine – and areas have strong theming and color schemes to set them apart from one another.

As the player destroys bosses, they are added to his journal. He may face them again in a dedicated boss rush, accessible from the main menu, which tasks the player with defeating them all in succession with only three lives and a limited set of ship upgrades. In addition, the game features a hardcore mode, although it is only unlocked after discovering several hidden areas during a regular playthrough.

The Aquatic Adventures of the Last Human was developed by YCJY Games, based in Gothenburg, Sweden and founded in 2014 by Josef Martinovsky and Christopher Andreasson. The game’s soundtrack was composed by Karl Flodin. Prior to this, the studio released a game entitled Keep Walking EP, a game about walking and listening to music while avoiding obstacles that make you drop your stuff.