Affordable Space Adventures review: Sucked in by the second screen
QUITE why Wii U was lumbered with an outsized (and no doubt costly) controller in the form of the GamePad still remains a bit of a mystery. Off-TV mode has its attraction but the touchscreen display has produced few unique gaming experiences.
Affordable Space Adventures (Wii U); rating: 8.5/10; age: 12+
Certainly, Nintendo itself makes little effort to incorporate its iPad-like functions in its own games in a compelling fashion. Barring NintendoLand and ZombiU, both launch titles back in 2012, few titles have bothered in any meaningful manner.
So it’s a rare pleasure to boot up Affordable Space Adventures and find the GamePad drafted into a key role for this likeably eccentric 2D puzzler. Seduced by the promise of cheap space tourism – sort of budget airline meets NASA – you crash-land on a gloomy planet. Your only transport is a scruffy, barely air-worthy craft – like something Delboy Trotter would reject as too shonky.
It sputters around the screen as you explore the dank caverns but lacks even a basic weapon to fend off the hostile aliens patrolling the shadows. The early levels present no challenge at all but, better late than never, ASA introduces the variables that finally make it a worthy download.
Via the GamePad, you gradually gain control of the ship’s systems, including its engines, gravity, stability and mass generator. The levels present a variety of obstacles, such as water, through which you must sink by increasing your weight. Or noise-sensitive enemies, who must be bypassed by lowering your engine thrust or switching to electric propulsion.
Stealth becomes your best defence as you assess each threat for its blind spot and deftly manoeuvre your craft by manipulating its speed, heat or mass – sometimes all within split seconds. Each level poses familiar enigmas that become challenging in their combinations.
All the while, the game prods your funny-bone with its wry tourist brochure-style commentary and spoofing of ancient computer systems.
ASA is a short experience for the money (€20) but it gains some replay value in the hilarious local co-op mode. One player controls the direction of the craft, another the light beam and a third the GamePad–based systems. It makes for chaotic fun and lots of shouting but the downside is obviously the possibly onerous requirement to have pals in the same room with you.