Friday, 10 April 2015

Affordable Space Adventures

Isn't it just spectacular!
Affordable Space Adventures, brought KnapNok Games for the WiiU, puts you behind the cockpit of a budget SmallCraft™ on the absolutely safe planet of Spectaculon courtesy of Uexplore, where a crew of you and two willing guinea pigs attempt to explore the planet and all of its wonders.

From the get go this game uses plenty of market speak and beautiful imagery in a humorous context to show off the wonders of the planet you will be exploring, before dumping you in the crash site of the mother ship that was supposed to deliver you safely to your landing area. From this point the gameplay begins, with your ship hanging on a cable as the computer boots up on the gamepad, giving you suspiciously optimistic instructions for the operation of your vessel. 

The crew can be split up into three roles. The operator will likely be the one who actually wants to play the game, as their job is the most involved - manipulating the ship's various subsystems through the gamepad. The navigator's job is simply to pilot the ship, and the science officer gets to point a torch around, scan artifacts and shoot flares. Suffice to say, the operator has the hardest job and the majority of the learning will be for that role. All of these mechanics are introduced one at a time, as the subsystems are gradually repaired by the ship throughout the game and coming into play on the level that demonstrates their use in a simple and safe setting before moving onto more complex puzzles. 

The levels themselves are very pretty, all things considered (a lot of the maps are relatively desolate in theme anyway), and the obstacles (temperature, artifacts, evil space tentacles) are communicated well. There are a couple of places where the level design could better explain the functions of some of the mechanics however. For example, showing an object fly towards and then bounce off a light blue surface to let you know they can make flares bounce would be useful on approaching a puzzle where that mechanic is required. One problem that had me stumped was that a moving platform followed the line of a laser, and that blocking the laser actually caused the platform to fall off. This particular mechanic where the platform needs the laser to stay up is never brought up beforehand (or after) and serves as a somewhat obscure solution to the puzzle.

The chosen story, theme and setting is portrayed in a comedic tone in various ways throughout the game, from the obvious blatant lies of the Uexplore sales pitch to the little effects such as the chugging engines and ridiculous horn that seem to infer the SmallCraft™ to be at the same level of quality as a second-hand car. 


Zero recorded accidents since 1995, Uexplore is as safe as space travel gets!

 
Another aspect that I thought was rather impressive was the removal of subsystems as the game drew to a close - providing tougher challenges by getting the players to use the techniques they had learnt and mastered to solve the puzzles with dwindling subsystems available. The game is paced in such as way that it feels natural, from both story and gameplay perspective, to be coming to a close.

Other than a few little issues, this game is definitely worth picking up if you want some co-op action with a friend or two. The way it handles all the little details help set the scene of your escape in this tiny bucket of bolts that really doesn't seem like it'd last 5 minutes on this hostile planet, and make your success feel all the more epic. And for £17 it has quite a decent playtime.

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