Affordable Space Adventures
The assurances of a brochure selling budget package holidays need careful consideration, and the same evidently applies to low-cost interstellar travel. In Affordable Space Adventures you’re promised an unforgettable trip to the beautiful Spectaculon, but you’re instead dumped in a bleak wasteland, controlling a rickety craft whose systems aren’t fully operational yet. Naturally, the environments are more hazardous than travel operator UExplore makes out, though the point of challenge here is less about external threat so much as mastering unconventional controls.
The misleadingly named setting is host to a series of dingy, cavernous environments. Your main source of illumination is the ship’s flashlight, the right analogue stick sweeping it across surfaces as you tentatively putter onward. As with all the craft’s systems, the power it expends is displayed on your ingeniously named ‘heads-down display’. While at first you won’t need to dim the beam, you’ll soon need to manage the electricity you’re generating as well as the sound and temperature that you’re radiating: Spectaculon is populated by artefacts that will dispatch any intruders within their radius with a jolting blast if disturbed. Some are responsive to heat signatures, others to noise, which means each discrete stage becomes a tense platespinning act as you simultaneously guide your ship while minimising its outputs to remain undetected.
For lone players, switching between regular and touch controls – and your attention between TV and GamePad – soon becomes a challenge, though there are button shortcuts for most critical inputs, and there’s usually enough breathing space to consider your next move before forging on. Most puzzles allow for different approaches, too: you might turn off your engines to drop past a group of enemies, or use low-level thrust to glide through slowly. Later solutions are more exacting and limiting, but every bit as satisfying, whether you’re using nothing but momentum and frictionless landing gear to accelerate over gaps, or opening shutters to build up sufficient internal heat to survive icier territory.
Collaborative play transforms the challenge. With one player guiding the craft via a Pro controller, another operating scanner and searchlight with a Wii Remote, and a third managing the gauges via GamePad, it should be easier, but relying on others to perform instructions in concert invariably leads to as many amusing failures as triumphs. As such, Affordable Space Adventures is a game that could only work on Wii U, which is reason enough to celebrate its existence. But even disregarding that, this is a splendid, imaginative game, and further proof of the talents of its creator.
Publisher KnapNok Games Developer In-house, Nicklas ‘Nifflas’ Nygren Format Wii U Release Out now
There are two difficulty settings, Tourist and Technical, with some puzzles simplified in the former. Its implementation is a little inconsistent: tough challenges are left untouched, while one test is too aggressively neutered