It's always refreshing when indie developers try something completely unique. Affordable Space Adventures puts you and up to two friends in the cockpit of a rental spaceship where your goal is to explore an alien planet and eventually find a way to return to Earth. But, with the odds against you, will you succeed or be stranded while stuck in your little shabby spacecraft for the rest of your life?
Affordable Space Adventures tells its story through a veil of dark humour. On the surface, the tourist company appears cheerful and enticing yet hints of deception lace every one of their advertisements. Upon landing on the alien planet, you'll quickly realise that it's not all that it's cracked up to be. The majority of the environments that you'll progress through are darkly lit therefore requiring you to use a light to make out your surroundings. The lighting effects are implemented fantastically as an intimidating eerie vibe is established as the result. This isolated atmosphere is also reinforced through the lack of music. Sound effects provide necessary audio cues while some merely exist to make you suspicious of your surroundings. Pre-recorded voice-overs from your ship assist you from time to time and their pleasant tones perfectly suit the ironic situation that you're in the middle of. Overall, its sights and sounds form the secluded planet's intensely creepy mood wonderfully.
You play by using the GamePad as the ship's control panel. The ship itself has a vast assortment of features and abilities that can be overwhelming to utilize at times. Besides moving the ship with the stick, using the other stick to aim the light/scanner, and rotating the ship by tilting the GamePad, you have an entire control panel populated with ways to alter the ship's current configuration. This is handled by switching between a fuel and electric engine, turning the engine's attributes up and down, applying different types of landing gear, charging and executing a boost that doesn't require engine output, and activating and deactivating certain other features. Each engine contains three adjustable attributes such as thrust, stability, antigravity, and mass. An array of monitoring gauges is supplied to measure the ship's current output and temperature to help ensure that you're not easily detectable by enemies or about to overheat. As you can plainly see, being able to keep track of all of these factors can become extremely difficult for the fact that there are so many.
Affordable Space Adventures consists of a 38 level campaign full of stealth sequences and physics-based puzzles. Robotic enemies that are introduced after you become familiar with the ship's basic controls are sensitive to sound, heat, and electricity so being able to sneak by undetected requires your ship to output less than their tolerance levels. This is an incredibly imaginative technique to accomplish stealth gameplay. Physics come in to play through puzzles that include bouncing flares off reflective surfaces to push buttons, or simply trying to get your ship to not overheat in volcano-like environments. Both the stealth and physics aspects consist of trying to strike a balance between being capable enough to complete a task while not overexerting your output. The campaign itself is significantly lengthy although it does take quite a while to get interesting. Once it starts to shine, it's over before you know it which is a shame since you'll want to see and do more at that point. Considering there are no extras or replay value in any form, this is especially disheartening. Of course, you can play through again, but you probably wouldn't want to go back and redo it after you've completed it once.
One aspect of Affordable Space Adventures that's intriguing is its local multiplayer implementation. Basically, the controls are split among up to three players who represent the ship's operator, navigator, and science officer. The operator uses the GamePad to configure the ship ideally for the current situation while the science officer scans the ship's surroundings and fires flares. The navigator has the simplest yet most enjoyable job as they get to actually move the ship. The key to succeeding as a crew is communication. Although the majority of the campaign can be handled with straightforward cooperation, some situations require working in tandem a bit too cohesively. An example would be when you need the operator to quickly reconfigure the ship before encountering an enemy. Seeing as they're probably staring at the control panel, it may be difficult for them to know exactly when to do it. Even if the navigator says, "Cut the electric engine's anti-gravity unit and apply the sticky landing gear", it may be too late. Although it can be frustrating, playing with friends may ultimately provide a more rewarding experience depending on your preference and tolerance for insubordination.
After all is said and done, Affordable Space Adventures is a unique experience. Although there are a few frustrating elements and it'll leave you wanting more, this memorable space exploration journey is one that you surely won't regret being a part of.
- + Brilliantly makes the GamePad a control panel
- + Satisfying mix of physics-based puzzles and stealth mechanics
- + Amusing dark sense of humour
- - The ship's multitude of features is sometimes difficult to keep track of
- - Takes too long to get interesting
- - Ends abruptly with no replay value