The promise of danger free space travel might make for a good vacation brochure, but the realities are far more hostile, at least in Affordable Space Adventures.  Thankfully travelers are equipped with a Heads Down Display, better known to gamers as the Wii U GamePad.  It’s this clever (and often neglected) controller that plays the key role throughout this title, and one which the developers have used brilliantly.

Affordable Space Adventures - GamePadThere’s actually not much plot development  in the game, which understandably may come as a disappointment to those hoping for an unfolding science fiction tale.  But even though story telling isn’t this title’s strongest area, it is enough to support the gameplay – and it’s the gameplay that wisely takes the starring role.  For a download with as many functions as Affordable Space Adventures has, it truly amazes me how quickly everything is grasped!   An initial look at the packed GamePad screen may very well intimidate – and the thought of alternating your view between it and the television might seem downright daunting.  Credit goes towards the two aspects that make this setup become so comfortable – good level design and flow, and the rate at which new functions are introduced.

Affordable Space Adventures - colofrul sceneryEach level is tailored to take advantage of different abilities, while doing so in a way that feels completely natural.  And none of the functions overstay their welcome, as they are integrated with the rest of your ever expanding tools.  Whether it’s adjusting output meters so an alien robot won’t detect the heat coming from your ship, timing the booster to quickly get past laser fields, using different landing gear to pick up or slide past obstacles, and much, much more, every puzzle in the game is satisfying thanks to the well thought out control.  Each tool is but a quick stylus tap away.  Some functions (such as changing engines) are also mapped to buttons, which is helpful when the need arises for making rapid adjustments.  There’s even some smooth gyroscopic controls thrown in for good measure.  The tight control, coupled with good observation, and the willingness to experiment make for a game that will challenge you, but rarely cross the line into frustration.

Affordable Space Adventures - lasersOf course if playing with a friend or two, any potential frustration can shrink even further as each of you focus on your own tasks.  This adds its own quirks though, as good communication and cooperation are an absolute must.  I’m not sure how the game fares when played with three (with the third player limited to scanner control) but two player co-op is something special.  With one acting as the pilot, and the other serving as engineer with the GamePad, the game is elevated to new heights.  In some games, multiplayer feels more like a simple bonus afterthought , but that’s not the case here.  In fact I can’t say enough about how much two player co-op adds to the package!  Don’t get me wrong, playing solo is still plenty enjoyable in its own right.  But let there be no doubts, the experience is greatly enhanced when shared with a friend.  Don’t cheat yourself out of this mode, one which I believe will impart great lasting memories.

Affordable Space Adventures - gameplaySome bright and colorful scenery is shown during a fun introduction, but it’s not until late in the game where you get to see anything approaching it.  The majority of the time you’ll be navigating darker locales.  Technically strong to be sure, yet I would’ve love to see even more diversity.  The darker  levels do allow for good lighting and environmental effects however, and look very good in High-definition.  The atmosphere is such to pique one’s curiosity to explore, yet at times proves quite chilling.  In any case, you’ll definitely get the sense that you’re in an alien world.

Affordable Space Adventures - teleporterMy worry is that at $20 (higher end for the eShop) fans will hesitate in downloading this new release. While I’m probably more fond of budget titles than anyone on the PN crew, I encourage all to buy this game sooner rather than later.  While the lack of traditional replay value is something that needs noting, it doesn’t take away from the satisfaction of beating the game.  And in truth you’ll probably want to replay it at least once anyway.  Besides being a great title, you can bring in friends to take turns with various responsibilities, or try the levels in one of the two difficulty modes.  No matter how you tackle it, you’ll be rewarded now with a great game, as well as investing for the future.  If a title like this is a big success, perhaps more developers will want to tailor unique experiences to the strengths of Wii U.

Affordable Space Adventures - enemy scanIn many ways Affordable Space Adventures is the sort of game I envisioned when the Wii U was first announced.  Titles making clever use of the GamePad’s  many features have been sporadic  for sure, but Affordable Space Adventures uses the tech better than even most Nintendo offerings!   My anticipation for this KnapNok/Nifflas’ collaboration was high, but the game has lived up to its promise!

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