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Affordable Space Adventures

Disclosure ‐ The awesome people at KnapNok Games provided us with a press copy of Affordable Space Adventures at our request, which we are truly thankful for.

In space, no one can hear you honk…

Affordable Space Adventures is a little, economical indie title exclusive to Wii U’s e-shop, created by Danish game developers KnapNok Games in collaboration with Swedish indie game developer Nifflas’ Games. This multiplayer, space adventure, puzzle game will most definitely make you experience so many feels for your little spaceship, as it putters through its dangerous space environment. We named ours Winston. And he honks. A lot.



From the game’s official website:

Enjoy all the thrills and excitement of space exploration on a budget? Uexplore brings you affordable space adventures without compromising comfort, fun and safety. Our newest Small Craft (TM) line with its intuitive and simple Heads Down Display technology offers all the functionality and flexibility of the Heads Up Displays installed in more expensive space ships, but at a fraction of the price.


Graphics & Setting

At first, you expect to find yourself in a little, extraterrestrial world, doing puzzles and having lots of alien fun as the games starts off as an advertisement for a super safe and definitely cost-effective space adventure for you and your friends. However, straight after, you’re dropped into a dark and isolated world at a spacecraft crash-landing site on the mostly uncharted planet of Spectaculon, where you can only assume everyone died a horribly fiery death. From then on, it becomes extremely obvious that you’re stuck in a place you’re not meant to be with a raging lightning storm up above and a barely visible landscape. Throughout the levels, the game brings a wonderful contrast between your adorable, little spaceship and the grim and ominous surroundings, especially when you find the screeching enemies and die an unexpected death. However, your spaceship is not equipped for combat, leaving you to use its on-board equipment to outsmart and outmanoeuvre any life forms you may come in contact with.

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This thing… oh, my God… this thing…

This little 2D space adventure features a hand-painted art style, not entirely uncommon for a game of its genre. It’s dark, gloomy and very alien. Your ship’s torch light is essential to navigating the dark depths of Spectaculon, often you’ll find yourself feeling uncertain of where you’re going and whether you’re safe or not. We learnt to take things slowly after our navigator (Zac) charged numerous times into unknown caverns only to be met by scary foes that our science officer (Lauren) did not have the chance to detect. The atmosphere is certainly eerie but sometimes quite beautiful; we traversed through thunderstorms and deep industrial factories to what felt like the inside of a giant alien at one point. Overall the variety of environments felt vast, it truly felt like a real journey through an unexplored land.


Gameplay

Affordable Space Adventures really does make the most out of the Wii U’s potential. It fully encourages you to play it as a 3-player co-op team and it completely works. We spent a wonderful evening together playing through the game’s co-op campaign which introduced a different play style to that of its single player story.

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Beautiful, yet creepy.

Each player is assigned their own role on the spacecraft: the astronaut, the navigator and the science officer, which operate different parts of the ship. Though we felt that the role of the science officer was definitely less ‘hands-on’ compared to the other roles, not necessarily a bad thing if you have a younger sibling or casual friend that isn’t very familiar with video games in general. The controls felt extremely responsive and intuitive, taking full advantage of the Wii U’s game pad which hasn’t been seen much since the Wii U’s release. The teamwork aspect works awfully well and I believe we are better friends because of it. Communication and teamwork  is both encouraged and required. However, if you’re sailin’ solo, you can still play it, and play it fairly well once getting used to the controls as there’s plenty of room and buttons on the game pad to combine all of the ship’s functions all-in-one. While Affordable Space Adventures offers some challenging puzzles, its forgiving checkpoint system eliminates those inevitable groans that come from having to repeat previous puzzles you’ve already completed. The variety of puzzles is truly great, from simple button pressing to use of the in-game physics, players become quite familiar with their ship’s capabilities throughout the story.

Taking full advantage of the Wii U gamepad, Affordable Space Adventures gives you full control over your little space craft.

Taking full advantage of the Wii U gamepad, Affordable Space Adventures gives you full control over your little space craft.

Overall the game is surprisingly immersive for what it is. You truly forget that your little spacecraft is being piloted by tiny humans just wanting to explore the planet Spectaculon. You just feel so much for the little craft when it starts shaking from all the overexerting work it’s doing. We almost wanted to blow on the game pad to try and cool the engines down!


 Audio

Okay, okay, seriously, this game has one of the best things… You can honk. Your little spacecraft is equipped with the cutest little car horn. This isn’t that amazing, yes, we know, but oh my, we had so many laughs. We honked entering and coming out of tunnels; we honked at enemies; we honked underwater; we honked until we could honk no more. That little horn became our shimmering beacon of hope in the dark depths of outer space which we clung to dearly when tensions were high. It was our inspiration that kept us truckin’; a big part part of the game’s charm.

The sound design overall is just spectacular. There is just so much detail, both extremely atmospheric and terrifying. The tiny details made the 3 of us laugh, jump and give an audible ‘Aww!’, such as the muffled underwater honk and the windscreen wiper noise when emerging from water or flying in the rain. What also makes this game is the noises from the enemies; just the screeching metal and the roar they give out when confronted. It makes them 10 times more menacing and scary than they look (and some of them look pretty damn confronting). The sounds of our imminent deaths were loud and startling which add to the intimidation that each level brings.  While the music of Affordable Space Adventures is quite minimal and ambient, it leaves more room for the quiet and lonely yet soothing drones of outer space.


Story

Affordable Space Adventures definitely seems to takes some inspiration from that of the Portal series. It has quirky, sarcastic dialogue within its cutscenes which depict a fictional company called Uexplore that’s doing A-OK; so A-OK in fact that they send their safety officer, Alex, on a long vacation despite the fact you’ve crash-landed on some crazy, robot-inhabited planet. The loading screens provide even more background story through the use of quirky little pamphlets and instruction manuals from Uexplore, all about your spacecraft and its features, however the loading time can be a bit long. More time for reading!

Budgie the helicopter? Anyone? No one?

Budgie the helicopter? Anyone? No one?

 Yo, ending spoilers! Highlight over text to read or just pretend like it’s not there!

The SOS points you find over a few levels fill you with relief until they spit you back out and read ‘out of service’ and the little glimmer of hope you had for survival is gone. Especially at the end, as you just urge the little guy to chug along; to just avoid freezing over in the blizzard long enough to get to the end as you can see one more SOS point in the distance. Then, it works! SOS is received with your personal message written on the game pad… rescue time: seven months… I mean, that’s okay, right? We can last, yeah? The little craft falls and his lights turn off. They’re only sleeping… However, back on earth, your SOS prints out in Uexplore’s HQ and falls to the floor where you see plenty more, scattered in Alex’s empty office. That’s it, game over. Your poor little guy… You finish the game with heartbreak and a creepy thought of how many more doomed spacecrafts are out there, unable to return.

And let’s be honest; if a game with little to no dialogue can make you feel this way, it has to have some fantastic atmospheric elements to go along with it.