‘Affordable Space Adventures’ Review: ‘Limbo’ In Space? Finally, A Game That Fully Utilizes The Wii U Gamepad

By Alex Riviello , Updated Apr 13, 2015 02:55 PM EDT
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No one can quite figure out what to do with the Wii U Gamepad. It seems rife with potential for new gameplay possibilities but most developers seem to either ignore its existence, or simply use it to display a map or inventory screen. Launch title ZombiU has perhaps utilized it better than any other title even almost three years since its release, but never fear- KnapNok’s Affordable Space Adventures feels like the first game since that truly gets the Wii U Gamepad.

In Affordable Space Adventures you play some unknown person or persons travelling to another world in a Small Craft, a cheap spaceship provided by a manufacturer called Uexplore. You are shown a brilliant commercial that extols the virtues of the craft, which will provide you with everything you need to explore a wonderous alien world and nothing you don't. uExplore also prides itself on its history of 0 accidents or deaths since the beginning of the company's history, and you seem well on your way to travel to a new world and claim your own land, in safety if not comfort.

Of course, when you (crash) land there, things turn out slightly different.

Affordable Space Adventures owes a lot to platforming puzzlers like Limbo and its ilk, the kind of game you only advance through after enduring multiple deaths, most of which are completely over the top and humorous in their violence. It retains that haunting, nightmarish vibe that Limbo made so popular but that's about it, as it's a much more colorful experience (and less crippling, atmospherically), and a whole lot more twitch-based.

Your little Small Craft is all you see. You’ll spend the majority of the game flying it through tunnels trying to avoid various turrets and robotic enemies that wish you death, as well as crippling heat and cold on the inhospitable planet. The game's brilliance lies in the fact that your ship is controlled by a heads down display, here recreated with your Wii U Gamepad.

You’ll tap buttons on the screen to power up your ship, turn on your sensors, and choose from gas and electric engines. With a glance you can see how much noise, heat and electricity each subsystem is generating, and move things accordingly. Need to carry something heavy? Raise that thrust. Want to have an easier ride through an obstacle course? Raise the stability. Increase your mass and you can dunk your ship into water and delve to the bottom, lower it and you'll pop up like a cork.

You'll learn each new system gradually over a course of levels that throw new challenges to you at every turn, until it all becomes second nature to you. The fun really begins when you have to use everything to sneak by enemies that only attack when they detect specific things- such as heat or noise above a certain level. You’ll have to experiment with all sorts of combinations to remain undetected and fly by, even though you will surely die many times on the way.

The game also does support multiplayer, with up to three people controlling various aspects of the ship. Being able to pilot the ship while someone works as engineer does make it a lot easier on you- it is tricky to juggle everything at once- but you really will have to communicate flawlessly if you hope to get anywhere. There's not much replayability to the game but grabbing a few friends and trying to work them through it proves incredibly entertaining.

For such a quiet and lonely single player experience there's just enough story provided, which is delivered by a few short commercials and distress pods you find on the way, and the tale just gets more and more haunting as it goes along, culminating in one thrilling end sequence with a wonderful capper. At around five-six hours from start to finish, this seems like the kind of game length that would make gamers instantly start griping, not understanding that the quality of the hours are sometimes more important than how long it lasts.

Affordable Space Adventures is simply one of the most satisfying games you’ll play on the Wii U, and certainly a must-purchase for anyone dying in the desert of quality titles on the system. This is the game Nintendo should be promoting more than any other, a third party title that can only be done using the Gamepad, showing off all of its capabilities and using them better than nearly everyone else.

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Affordable Space Adventures was reveiewed from a Wii U code provided by KnapNok Games. It's currently available as a Nintendo eShop exclusive for $19.99.

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