Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ghost's Arcade: Affordable Space Adventures

"You can be a professional space explorer.  Let Uexplore provide you with a cheap but functional spaceship equipped with everything you could possibly need on an alien planet."

Ghost here, thanks for joining me.

I don't talk about indie games very often.  It's not that I don't like indie games or won't give them a chance.  It's more about the fact that most indie games kind of need to be talked about in a particular time frame. The indie world can be very fickle and since I only make video game related content once every 3 weeks, that fickle nature it not in my favor.  If an indie game is breathtaking everyone will know about it within a week.  Same is true if an indie game is horrible garbage.  In order for me to cover an indie game it has to be something that's pretty fantastic or pretty terrible but hasn't gotten a whole lot of media attention at least in the avenues I pay attention to.  That's where this game lies.

Full disclosure here, I didn't seek out this game on my own.  I had actually only seen this thing mentioned once and that was an official trailer for the thing I saw when diving through YouTube one day.  However, the Humble Bundle did a Nintendo bundle and for only 16 bucks I walked away with 12 games or more? I don't remember exactly, but this was one of those games.  I tried out all of them and this was one I just had to cover.  So let's put on our space suits and hop in our affordable spaceship and see what this is all about.

The Plot

You have just watched an infomercial for UExplore.  UExplore is a company that is providing you with the opportunity to explore a new planet and claim part of it as your own before returning to Earth.  It's affordable and above all, safe with a 0% problem rating.  This, of course, means that when you wake up from your journey you have found that the transport ship has crash landed on the alien planet and you are the only survivor.  There is a distress beacon nearby but it is nonfunctional.  You must now pilot your damaged vehicle across the alien terrain in order to find a functional UExplore distress beacon.  However the pathway is treacherous with extreme heat and cold, strange puzzles, and an alien ship that had crashed landed previously with a multitude of sentry robots guarding the area with extreme prejudice.  Eventually as your systems begin shutting down, you find a distress beacon that is functional and go into a cryogenic freeze until Earth can rescue you.  However, at the UExplore headquarter, thousands of faxes are coming in from others having the same issue but nobody is there to rescue them.

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... and that's it!  The majority of the game is actually based around puzzle solving, navigation, and gameplay.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing so long as what we are given is enjoyable.


Affordable Space Adventures is an exploration game in which you use the WiiU's gamepad to maneuver the space ship seen on the TV screen from one area to another while avoiding traps and sentry units.  There are several aspects of the WiiU's gameplad you must utilize in order to accomplish this.  First would be the buttons and sticks on the gamepad itself.  These do things such as press the gas and break, steer the ship, change different types of landing gear, shoot off flares, and shine the scanner and flashlight in different directions.  Another aspect is the gyroscopic controls within the gamepad itself.  There are some areas which are slanted and would not allow passage through normally so you must turn the gamepad itself so that the ship can travel at an angle through tight places.

However it is the 3rd part of the gamepad that is the most complex, and that would be the touch screen.  The touch screen is basically like your control panel in the cockpit.  From there you can modify how much thrust you are putting out, how much stabilizer to utilize for your flight, whether or not to engage the mass generator to sink or float at ease, utilizing a battery backup, and several other functions like whether to use the fuel engine or the electric engine.  Why are these things important?  Well remember those sentries I talked about earlier?  These things have a radius of scanning for anything coming by.  However, these sentries are looking for certain aspects of your ship.  These sentries can look for heat, electrical signature, sound, or a combination of them all.  If your ship is producing more than what that particular sentry deems acceptable then it's dime for death's sweet embrace.  You can use your scanner on each of the sentries to see what they are looking for and adjust the features of your ship so that you can pass by undetected.  There are also environmental hazards and puzzles that you must get past by utilizing only certain parts of your ship as well.

What's Good About It?

The atmosphere of the game was something that instantly held my attention.  If I was really using my brain at that moment I would have seen the twist coming as soon as they mentioned a 0% incident rate.  However my expectations were different than the reality of the game.  First off, I was under the assumption that there would be a training level or something to get us used to the machine first before setting out on the alien planet.  I didn't realize that we would be there the second the infomercial ended.  Secondly the trailer for this game as well as the opening infomercial were such a stark contrast to what the game actually consisted of that it truly threw me for a loop.   Those two things were like this
Then when the game started properly...BAM!!
Harsh reality right in your face about what is actually going on.  It honestly surprised and jarred me a little bit and that's just wonderful.  Now some of the areas in the game are quite gorgeous, but this stark contrast is very welcome.

The second great thing about this game is it's use of the WiiU Gamepad.  While many developers shy away from a lot of Nintendo's gimmicks and shenanigans, these guys have accepted it full force and have utilized every single aspect of the gamepad so perfectly.  There is literally not a single button or portion of the gamepad that I didn't end up utilizing.  The closest thing to this is possibly... Mario Kart 8 maybe?  It's rare for a 3rd party developer to embrace the gimmicks of a Nintendo Console but it's even more rare for a developer to not only embrace the gimmicks but provide an intuitive control scheme to boot.  Somehow these guys did it and I enjoyed actually using the gamepad the way it was most likely intended to be used.

What's Bad About It?

If you're looking for an easy game then look elsewhere bro.  This game is extremely difficult once you get past level 16 or so.  For a game that has no combat and is mostly just puzzles and pushing buttons I wasn't prepared for the extreme level of difficulty some of these levels provided.  As you can see from the gamepad picture above there are 10+ different buttons that all control different aspects of the ship's output and many of these sentries require certain levels to be so incredibly low that there is one and only one way to get past them... and good luck finding out which combination actually works.  I'd say a good half of the game I ended up having to look up on YouTube to figure out how in the name of all things holy I'm supposed to get past this stuff.  I'm all for trial and error but when I spend 40 minutes trying to get past one set of sentries alone?  That's just too difficult.  If it's not sentries then it's something cryptic.  In the last level I kept freezing to death.  How exactly was I supposed to know that landing in the snow was supposed to raise the internal temperature of my ship? Last time I checked, snow was COLD...whatever.

Speaking of difficulty, here's something else that's honestly more of a nitpick than anything else.  I get annoyed when a game decides to make things difficult by slowly adding more things that you have to worry about...then once everything is given to you, everything that you've come to rely on gets taken away from you again.  That's exactly what this game does.  At first you only have your fuel engine and a couple of small features.  As you progress through the levels more and more of your ship becomes available until you are in the heart of the alien space craft when you have a fully functional machine.  After that level, however, your machine is damaged severely and all of your systems including stabilization start shutting down level by level until you are left with nothing but throttle and temperature control for the final level.  It's not necessarily a terrible choice but it's just one that annoys me.


Affordable Space Adventures was honestly a treat when I wasn't getting overly angry at the difficulty involved with some challenges.  It was a surprise that I'm glad came with my Humble Bundle.  It wasn't a particularly long game at only 38 levels, but it was still a quality experience.  The game is regularly $20 and if you have some disposable income, consider tossing it their way.  I'm personally glad I didn't have to pay $20 bucks for it but that's because I tend to be a Scrooge with my money at times.  I honestly do recommend it even if it's just for the utilization of the gamepad.  Check it out and go on your own space adventure!

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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If you want to see my other Video Game discussions and reviews, click here!

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