Affordable Space Adventures is set in an alternate history, based upon a company that commercialized space exploration. The namesake tourist package is touted to be very inviting and also procedural. Of course, there wouldn’t be a game if this were entirely the case, so without feeling like I am spoiling anything I will tell you that you don’t get picked up in the timely manner advertised. This theme is what makes the game such a well-packaged, and entertaining experience.
Your character isn’t the main character of the game, but rather the Small Craft – what you’re using to maneuver around the beautiful planet Spectaculon. This ship is how you will interact with the world, and what makes the game truly shine. Controls are laid out on the GamePad, and the GamePad is well used as a means of control. Throughout the game you will proceed beyond the stick and button controls to using the touch screen, and the breadth of screen controls will reveal deeper gameplay. Your available means of manipulating the ship will expand from thrust and mass to deciding which engine type or landing gear is best. Other on-screen controls bring even more to consider as your task of getting to the end of each level becomes more challenging a task.
Someone passing by might mistake Affordable Space Adventures for some type of side-scrolling space shooter, albeit with much less action happening on screen. But this game isn’t a shooter – it’s a puzzle game. How do you get through part of the world when the only way is underwater? Your thrust won’t work when floating. Can you increase the weight? Sink your ship, then! What if a button needs to be pressed? Shoot a beacon! Need to squeeze your way through a crevice? Tilt the GamePad! That person watching will not see swarms of enemies taken out in a fury of gunfire like seen in those shooters. But they will see enemies who react under specific conditions. Are you making too much noise, or emitting too much electricity? Take to the GamePad and adjust those controls. At times, I was held up due to needing to figure out what adjustment I needed to make, or how to fly my ship just the right way in order to pull off something at just the right time. Several of these moments provided enough tension for me that my wife could hear me laughing as my destroyed ship crashed to the ground. Using my flashlight to see what’s coming next, and my scanner to know what I am facing and how to overcome the obstacle, never got old. Some might find the task of continually manipulating their ship to be tedious, but this added to the immersion for me.
Use your flashlight to look around, and while you do, appreciate what you see. Affordable Space Adventures looks awesome – and this is worth highlighting. After playing the game, I want to know more about the planet. The variety of environments would definitely bring me to the tourist office. What else is found in Spectaculon makes me want to experience more of this setting. It being a game of control makes me appreciate that the developer didn’t neglect the look of the world in favor of how to get around it all, since flying through such a pristine place makes it all the better.
The ambience of the minimalist music however, added to the feel of it all, pulling me in and enhancing the sound effects. I thought about how more music could benefit the game, but my focus on the controls was then rattled as I was shot out of the air by a sentry gun. Less is more in some regards, and Affordable Space Adventures realizes how to use the different aspects of gaming to deliver an entertaining package. This game does a great job at getting your undivided attention by using beautiful visuals and excellent gameplay to accomplish the “just one more” goal of playing a video game. Between and throughout levels, you will learn a bit more about the Uexplore and Spectaculon. Keep an eye on the GamePad when you are given a new control or when your ship meets an untimely demise, as it might display a relevant bit of information. The only gripe I’ve come up with for the game is throughout all this fun immersion, there’s not really a way to pause the game. Best to land your ship if you need to stop for a moment, because things continue even if the start menu is displayed. This isn’t a major problem, just something to be aware of if you want to step away for a cold drink while your ship is suffering the effects of overheating (not saying I’ve done this).
The game is priced as a premium indie title, and is well worth the cost. The amount of levels will take more time to play through the first time, especially on the Technical (read: standard) difficulty. The increase of which is fair, and the smartly-placed checkpoints means the only frustration you will feel is from your own mistakes. You can choose Technical or Tourist, with Tourist taking out some of the edge from the levels. Switching to Tourist might remove a laser field from a level, for example. Changing the difficulty can be done at any time, with a brief loading period taking place in order to repurpose the level. This easier mode would benefit local multiplayer, when this game shows off another strength – couch co-op. I played the game with my wife, who took the GamePad. I flew the Pro Controller, and we split controls and responsibilities. This meant that accomplishing one task was split between two people, and required some communication. Multiplayer can be played with up to three people, so you can imagine the fun of three on a couch talking about how to get the ship past when each are assigned to different roles. My wife and I had fun when we both had to collaborate on even the simplest challenges; I highly recommend those with a second and even third gamer in the house to through the entire game on another save slot.
Those who do play through the game and find themselves wanting more will be pleased to hear that the developer is planning to release free downloadable content. Announced a couple months after release, this DLC will add five “extremely difficult” levels to the game. Paid DLC is announced, but details are unknown. I am including this in the review because at the time of this article, I want those who purchase the game to know that the developer is hard at work to ensure you get even more for your gaming dollar.
Affordable Space Adventures is a prime example of a game made for a system. The stellar visuals and atmospheric sound are great, but it’s the controls integrated with the (underused) GamePad that really make this a game all Wii U owners should own. If you like to spend your gaming time wearing your thinking cap like I do, and enjoy the finer touches that polished games display, give this game a try. And if you have some friends to sit with you on the couch, grab a couple more controllers for even more fun.
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