After Us Review: A Haunting, Thoughtful Journey

I have an odd soft spot for games that hurt me. Not like Getting Over It, where you’re bludgeoned with awkward controls and punishing mechanics; games that make you sit down after and think about all the things you play games to not think about. After Us, a puzzle platformer brought to us by Picollo and Private Division, is also one of those games.

After Us is set after nature has been extinguished. Gaia, the Spirit of Life, is tasked with delving into the ruins that remain. Mother has the power to restore the world, but said power is locked in the forms of the last to die. You must search them out on massive levels, full of platforming challenges and haunting vistas.

Desolate and Dangerous

After Us is a perfect example of a collectathon that weaves its mechanics into the story; rewarding players who find Spirits by placing their critters in the levels is a great motivator. These Spirits don’t just serve as eye candy; they highlight points of interest, even leading to the other Spirits. While each stage has unique mechanics, players are never teased with Spirits that force them to come back later.

After Us Screenshot, Dog, Haunting
Screenshot: Gamer Digest/After Us

The controls are excellent. Gaia can sprint, double jump, air dash, and otherwise excel at getting from A to B. The checkpoint system is forgiving and, a couple of times set me on a platform I’d missed by inches. The game even puts a marker below your character when jumping, though I wish its range was slightly longer.

The levels are straightforward in both progression and collectibles. After Us showcases great level design in terms of using light and environmental cues to guide the player. The few times I didn’t see the way forward, taking a moment to pan the camera was all it took. 

The levels have a dreamlike quality, and each ends with an uncomfortable sequence that symbolizes your target’s last moments.

The accessible levels are reinforced by the map system. Instead of a full layout, players are given a basic route through each area. They also mark the positions of the optional Spirits. Gaia can sing to better hone in on nearby Spirits, which are hidden behind extra challenges.

Crafted with Care

The levels all have a theme, each serving the conservationist outlook of the game. It’s one thing to be told: “Pollution is bad.” It’s another to be digging through piles of garbage to escape the toxic rain, hiding in a toilet for shelter. The underwater levels are my favorite; as someone who’s had trouble with them since Sonic 2, that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d say.

After Us Underwater Level
Screenshot: Gamer Digest/After Us

Sometimes you’ll face more active threats, the biggest being the Devourers – Humans. Combat against them is basic but surprisingly organic. They can stumble, shove each other aside, and even fall to the ground. They’re uncanny foes, saved for big setpieces.

Gaia isn’t meant for fighting, but I enjoyed how they make you think on your feet.

The music and sound work is expertly done. They help play up the dread and later danger of the stages. The Deer level is a great example, with snaps of traps and the crack of gunfire. The less dire sound effects for collecting Spirits and redeeming Devourers help you savor those little victories.

Wading through Sludge

Remember when I said the levels were straightforward? Quarry is the exception – someone was having a bad day when they made the Quarry. The level is folded over on itself so tightly you’ll get distracted by Spirits you can’t reach yet. 

This happens so much that you start thinking you can’t reach them when you actually can. So you miss a Spirit, which would have helped you find the other Spirits and navigate the level. I don’t think it’s beyond saving; it just needs a couple more lamps in the right spots. The Factory is similarly twisty but spaced out enough for you to tell when you can move on.

After us level complexity screenshot

My other issue was performance. My PC started stuttering around the second half of the game, and this carried through to the end of my run. In the game’s defense, my rig was built 3 years ago. I wouldn’t object to better optimization, though; it’d only let more people enjoy this title.


After Us is a poignant platforming experience. The game’s emotional hooks are backed by beautiful stages and rewarding gameplay. It’s a game I won’t forget anytime soon, and in an industry drowning in content, that speaks volumes.

After Us Review

Zeph Rider

Sound Design


After Us is a poignant platforming experience. It’s a well-designed game with good gameplay and a timeless message. A couple of rough spots aren’t enough to keep this game from masterpiece status.


After Us is available on Steam.

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Reviewed on PC.