Affordable Space Adventures is a strategy/stealth puzzler created in a collaboration between Nifflas Games (Knytt Underground, Nightsky) and KnapNok Games (Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party). In this title, you, a thrill-seeking tourist have just found a way to explore space in an affordable way. A company called Uexplore “brings you affordable space adventures without compromising comfort, fun and safety”. Their new Small Craft allows people to go on space adventures that is within the restraints of their budget. Of course, no one could pass up going to space so you decide to take the company up on its offer and you rent one of their new space craft. You land on a distant planet and that is when everything goes wrong and your adventure truly begins.
To survive on the planet you are on, you will have to use every function and feature your space vessel has to offer. This is where Affordable Space Adventures shines. The gameplay is what makes this title so unique since it really puts the Wii U gamepad to good use. On the planet there are creatures and enemies that will detect you if your ship makes too much noise, gives off too much heat, or radiates too much electricity. You will need to adjust these features on your gamepad screen before moving or you risk having your ship be targeted by the many dangers on the planet. During my time with Affordable Space Adventures, I really enjoyed being able to use the gamepad because not many games utilize it in an innovative way. Although it can become tedious having to constantly look down only to change one little feature, the uniqueness of the controls were never lost on me.
Although gameplay and controls were great, the same can not be exactly said about the puzzle and level design. Some of the game felt like there was really no puzzle-solving involved. Many times it felt that the only way I was able to pass undetected by enemies was through constant trial-and-error, sometimes it even felt like pure luck. This is unfortunate because the game was at its best when you really had to think about how you would solve a certain puzzle. An example was when I had to pass through an enemy turret to be able to make it to the other side. After thinking about it for a while I realized that I simply had to turn on the sticky landing gear so that I could stick onto a moving cog that would take me to the other side. This way I could make it to the other side without using electricity that the turret would pick up and take notice of me. It is at these moments that the game gives you a feeling of pride and accomplishment for being able to think of a solution to a problem they throw at you. It is too bad that these moments are shrouded by the infuriating moments of trial-and-error. Still, it is important to note that every time you do “die”, the game places you in really smart checkpoints. This eliminates a bit of the anger of having to try things again and again. Trust me when I say that you will be trying things again and again.
The graphics of Affordable Space Adventures are nothing to really take note of. The game does not really look to impress you with high definition graphics. Instead, backgrounds, fog and a dark atmosphere give the impression of an austere beauty about space and the planet that you are trapped on. A feeling of isolation can be felt and conveyed through the simple art style and I believe that alone makes up for the lackluster graphics.
Don’t expect much of a soundtrack when you play Affordable Space Adventures either. Still, the sound design makes up for this in a few ways. The sounds that do play in the background add to the feeling of isolation and even increases the immersion of the simple actions you perform. Just turning on your engine felt immersive and real, the sounds that your ship make even drone out the simple background music. The many loud sounds that your ship makes, especially when it explodes, creates a strange but somehow creative juxtaposition with the peaceful music. The absence of a louder soundtrack makes moments when your ship blow up much more suspenseful. I actually would jump out of my seat and my heart would pound every time the ship blew up. The sound effects, especially of the ship, are much louder than the actual music and in some ways that is not such a terrible thing.
It is great to see this title offer two difficulty modes and even the option to play with two other people. Although I was not able to experience this option, it seemed tacked on and did not seem to offer that much new gameplay. Co-op allowed you and two other friends to command different parts of the Small Craft and in my opinion I would think that would make things much more infuriating. Still, it is appreciated that this is an option and you can play the whole game by yourself if you wish to do so.
Affordable Space Adventures does not come without a few problems and it is nowhere close to being a perfect game, but it is truly a great and unique experience. It suffers some in the puzzle solving element but when it does throw a tough one at you, solving it leaves you proud and accomplished. Although the £17 ($20.00) seems a little steep for the content it offers, it is worth it alone for the experience it offers when it comes to the Wii U Gamepad. Not many games use the controller in such an innovative way and if there is anything to take away from this title is that we need more games to utilize the Gamepad to its max potential. Who knew it would be indie developers rather than Nintendo to use the controller as it was advertised when the console first came out? We need more games like Affordable Space Adventures for the Wii U.