Format: Wii U eShop
Developer: Knapnok Games
Publisher: Knapnok Games
Website: Official Site
In 2013 Knapnok Games released the excellent Spin The Bottle on the Wii U eShop, which utilised the gamepad brilliantly, creating an inventive and hilarious party experience. They have taken this focus on the hardware and fleshed it out to create a more in-depth gaming experience in Affordable Space Adventures.
The game explains its set up with an ironic promotional video, tantalising us with consumer space travel to lavish and beautiful worlds, and then throws you on a bleak, desolate planet where your journey hasn't gone quite according to plan. It’s a hard game to categorise, ultimately it’s a puzzle game, but it’s presented and plays so differently it often feels more of an adventure game, especially with its focus on atmosphere and objective - your ship is stranded on this alien planet, and you have to get off. It has 38 levels, with each level a puzzle you have to solve to complete it. You control the affordable space craft, a rickety machine that allows you to light the way, scan items and stumble through the terrain; mixing traditional controls to move the vehicle, with the gamepad to move the levers and buttons for engines and thrusters, and twisting the controller to alter it's angle.
As the game progresses you quickly get more access to the parts of the ship - more speed, different engines, and even the ability to change the ship's mass; each one providing new opporutnities for inventive and increasingly fiendish puzzles. And it is so much fun! Not only are the puzzles great and the various control inputs rewarding; but it’s added to greatly by the presentation - the 50’s styled advertising (which has a similar tone to Tomorrow Corporations’ work) allowing the game to tell it story and controls in a more creative way, whilst adding some much needed light and humour; this is countered by the game itself, which is dark and moody, often finding it difficult to even see; it has a fantastic atmosphere which grows as the planet's inhabitants come to play. These contrasting moods elevate the feel of the game as a whole, giving it a texture most games don’t get close to, especially one that is, in essence, so simple.
The real jewel of the game though, and also a slight problem, is that this game gets even better when played in co-op - with one player controlling the movement of the ship and firing the flare/scanner, and another with the gamepad controlling the levers, speed, light/scanner direction and more (a 3rd player can take control of some of the pilot’s actions but I actually preferred 2-player) it becomes an incredible co op experience - not only solving the puzzles together, but the skill, timing and reactions needed to execute your plans, and anyone can play - my girlfriend hates video games, however much I try and change this, but she loved this game, she didn’t want to control the ship, but she loved being the engineer (gamepad). This brings up an additional point, it has huge replay value as the game offers very different experiences in single and multiplayer and also which role you take, but also the slight niggle, to get the most out of it you need a local co-op partner.
Affordable Space Adventures is another eShop indie masterpiece that uses the gamepad in fantastic ways, it's superb in single-player, but the fun and enjoyment is amplified playing with friends, it really is one of the greatest co-op experiences I’ve had. It may be a little on the pricey side, but we need to support these indies with big ideas if we want more of them, and we most definitely want more of games like this.
Note: We also want to use this as an opportunity to recommend Spin the Bottle on the eShop too, another great multiplayer game that uses the gamepad brilliant. It’s pretty limited being party game, but if you have people over (gamers or not) then you can’t go wrong with this, it’s more fun and much cheaper than most board games.
Review by Darren Bolton for Nintendo: Review.