Capsule Review: Affordable Space Adventures

A spaceship management sim puzzle game, notable for its optional co-op and for being one of very few Wii U games to actually make good use of the gamepad screen. While the TV is occupied with the ship and its environment, the gamepad is used as the ship’s control panel allowing you to toggle and route power between various systems. You must use this to navigate a series of puzzle rooms by avoiding lethal hazards, activating switches to open doors, and getting to the exit.

Different ship systems are required for dealing with different obstacles, but more pressure is put on you by alien artifacts that detect various levels of sound, heat, and electricity and respond with lethal force should you put out too much within their detection radius. Fortunately, your own scanners can show you that radius as well as the detection thresholds of the particular artifact. You must then find a way to get past each artifact while keeping your outputs sufficiently low.

This often involves switching between systems at the right time. Need to get past an artifact that detects heat? Use your electric engines instead of your fuel-burning ones. Need to get past one that detects heat and electricity? Cut your engines completely when you have the right inertia and fall past it, or use your slippery landing gear to slide past it - whatever the environment enables you to do.

Optionally, tasks can be split between multiple players. A second player can become the “pilot” and take over flying the ship, while a third can become the “navigator” and take over the scanner and flashlight - all other functions are always on the gamepad. I haven’t tried the multiplayer but suspect that a two-player experience might add some satisfying coordination a la Spaceteam, Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator, or Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Three players would probably be spread a bit too thin, though - it’s hard to imagine the flashlight and scanner being enough to keep a person occupied and entertained.

Without the satisfaction of efficient teamwork, I found little in the game to hook me. There’s no characterization and little context - you’re on a budget space trip gone wrong and are just looking for a functioning emergency beacon to call for evacuation - and the only thing you get for clearing a puzzle room is access to the next puzzle room. Many of the puzzles I saw also had solutions that were easy to see but difficult to execute (for example, cutting engines to fall past an artifact and then powering them up immediately after to avoid falling into a death laser) which made them both dull and frustrating.

I might give the game another go if Senpai-chan wants to try tackling it in co-op, but as is, it leaves me cold. It does a better job justifying the existence of the Wii U gamepad than just about anything Nintendo themselves put out, but that speaks more to Nintendo’s questionable design and handling of the Wii U than to how enjoyable the game is.

I Stopped Playing When: I played for about an hour and reached level 17 before getting bored enough to quit.

Docprof's Rating:

One Star: Not for me. While there might be someone out there who'd enjoy this game, I was actively repulsed by it or just found nothing to latch on to.

You can get it or learn more here.