BIG ADVENTURES ON A BUDGET
Have you ever wanted to explore the galaxy, but don’t feel like you’ve got a lot of cash to spare? With Affordable Space Adventures, you’ll be able to do that very thing without breaking the bank. Affordable Space Adventures is a collaboration between Knytt Underground creator Nicklas “Nifflas” Nygren, and KnapNok Games, developers of Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party. These developers have lovingly crafted an excellent stealth/ puzzle/exploration game that you won’t soon forget.
Affordable Space Adventures begins with an infomercial from Uexplore, a space exploration company that outfits people with Uexplore Small Crafts to explore distant planets. Uexplore guarantees that you’ll be safe as you explore the planet Spectaculon, but things quickly go awry when your Small Craft arrives. That’s where you come in. You are tasked with exploring Spectaculon and navigating its varying landscapes, puzzles, and enemies. While the story of the game is pretty minimal, it does provide an arc and an ending that left me satisfied after the approximately six-hour experience.
Affordable Space Adventures is a beautiful game. The atmosphere of Spectaculon is wonderful, with interesting plants, unique spaces and gorgeous vistas to explore. The game is super colorful, which adds to the beauty of the environment. There are a lot of loading screens, but I was never bothered by them. Load times are filled with wonderfully crafted objects that I wanted to pick up, Small Craft manuals I wanted to read, and more than one joke I loved about how the Wii U controllers are integral pieces of a Small Craft cockpit.
The gameplay is about what you’d expect from a side-scrolling space exploration game, until you add the ship management elements introduced on the gamepad. At first I felt like I was playing the best possible pixeljunk shooter cover album, until the ship management came into play on the gamepad. This is when the game really reveals its depth and complexity. This complexity shows itself after a few stages, when you’ll be tested on your ability to manage your ship’s varying electrical, sound and heat outputs. All of this is possible due to the most ingenious use of the Wii U gamepad to date, the Heads Down Display.
The Heads Down Display gives players all of the vital information that they need to navigate the world of Spectaculon in one convenient location. The gamepad lets you manage whether your ship is running on a fuel-based or electrically-based engine, each with different abilities. You’ll be able to switch between these engines on the fly. You’ll also be able to crank the different abilities up or down to fit the needs of your current situation. The interplay between the two engines, the several abilities for each engine, and managing the necessary outputs to get through a frozen cavern or past a sound sensitive enemy makes for some very satisfying puzzles. Every time I completed a devilishly difficult puzzle, I felt like an unstoppable ship captain that could navigate any problem that was thrown my way. The difficulty of the puzzles ramps up pretty naturally, and I never felt confounded by a puzzle because the information I needed to navigate that puzzle was always at hand. Altough, there are a few environmental puzzles that are the exception to the former rule. The game is a wonderful balance of understanding what obstacles are in your path, and how you can adapt your Small Craft to surpass those obstacles.
One of the most talked about features in Affordable Space Adventures is the couch co-op that puts one player in the role of the engineer, another as the pilot, and a third as the ship’s scanner. This mode gives the engineer control of the Heads Down Display, which controls the ship’s engines and other abilities. The pilot controls the movement of the Small Craft, while the scanner uses the scanning equipment to gather information from the world and light the ship’s path. Each of these jobs are integral to progressing in the game, so this mode requires lots of communication and coordination between players.
The Verdict: 8.7 out of 10
Affordable Space Adventures is an expertly executed game that makes ingenious use of the Wii U gamepad. It is a beautiful, fun space exploration game with puzzles that are challenging, but rarely frustrating. If you’re into puzzle games, side-scrolling style exploration games, or beautiful space games, you should give Affordable Space Adventures a shot.
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Landon Peterson is an associate writer for MONG, and an intrepid space explorer. Follow his infrequent adventure updates on twitter.