Imagine if you crashed your bike into a ditch in the middle of the Essex countryside and had no memory of where you are or how to get home. Well now imagine that bike is a spaceship, the ditch is a deserted planet and the Essex countryside is the vast expanse of space. ADIOS is a cross between a space sim and a platformer. It’s an original and novel concept and, as it turns out, a demanding adventure in outer space. Read on.
To begin with your ship’s AI will introduce himself as ZING. He’s a funny chap, not altogether all there, but he means well. He’ll take you through the rudiments of space travel. In order to find home, ZING needs to scan his surrounding to orientate himself. Your job is to pilot him over a planet’s surface to scan important objects and collect fuel for the journey. A bar at the top of the screen will tell you when ZING has enough information to move on to the next region via a Z-Jump. Pick up any fuel containers, blast upwards and take a flying space leap. After a short countdown you’ll find yourself catapulted to another unknown portion of space. Locate the nearest planet and down you go to repeat the whole process. Each time you complete a survey and if you’ve got enough fuel you’ll be able to Jump closer and closer to home at a rate of one light year at a time. It sounds easy, but brace yourselves for a real challenge. Piloting a spaceship is no bicycle ride.
You’ll start off with forty units of fuel, and every time you activate your thrusters you’ll eat away at it at an uncomfortable rate. It doesn’t take long to realise you need to take it easy on the pedals. If you thought you’d be speeding around the galaxy at warp 9 you were very wrong. No zoomies for you, and certainly no sightseeing. Careful taps are definitely the way to go, particularly when you’re getting used to your ship’s manoeuvring capabilities and limitations. Every forward motion costs you valuable energy and an unwise thrust in the wrong direction can be potentially fatal to your mission. All planets are subject to gravity, and this will usually pull you down when you’re near the surface and so thrusting against it can save you from serious damage which will cost even more fuel to repair.
Each new system you travel to will be different and will present a list of problems and scenarios for you to work with. Gravity is number one on that list. Depending on where the sun is, how big it is and how far away your planet is, it will massively affect not just surface conditions and landing, but getting to the damn thing in the first place. If you had unlimited fuel this wouldn’t be an issue but as your supplies are pretty meagre, you are forced to rely on gravitational drift. A handy curvy line will tell you where you’re likely to end up, but as your destination planet is constantly rotating, where you end up could be a long way from any sort of terra firma. It’s all about practice, patience and subtlety. If you’re impatient, use the fast forward, because the thrusters, if overused, are likely to send you off in completely the wrong direction. Your first encounter with an asteroid belt is rather terrifying, but once you’ve mastered slow but precise movement, they’re fantastic for scanning floating space junk and could save you from a dangerous planetary experience and a long flight.
But ADIOS is not just about piddling around in a rocket ship. Once you’ve landed, you can step out and explore on foot. Take control of just about the cutest astronaut in the cosmos and set about scanning the environment yourself. What’s interesting about the platforming aspect here is that pesky gravity stuff. Your movement and jumping abilities will differ from planet to planet. In fact, on some planets you will need to wear a hat to weigh you down so you don’t go floating off. Unfortunately the hat will have to come off if you’re planning to carry fuel back to your ship. High winds? Chance of getting fried by the sun? Horrible black spider alien in the vicinity? It’s certainly worth weighing up whether it’s worth the risk on foot.
Alongside your longing to return home, is your need to discover things. The Discoveries tab in the options menu will keep an eye on what you find, but more importantly, as you travel farther you will find new hats and new pieces of equipment that will help you on your journey and make space life a little more friendly.
There are lots of ways to die in ADIOS and the game doesn’t suffer fools. The smallest mistake can lead to death or floating endlessly through space. Spend too much fuel getting to a planet can lead to disaster if it’s too dangerous to hang about on trying to get that one single fuel top-up. Some planets are a pig just to land on and way too hot for you to explore on foot. After twenty minutes of careful manoeuvring around an asteroid belt and a perfect landing, one slip into a crevice while your blood boils and gravity seems to be pinning your ship down is enough for a Game Over. In this respect, gameplay can be frustrating. While this game is quite old school in its decision to let you learn from your mistakes and work out your survival for yourself, an unexpected satellite dropped on your head can really dampen your day. There’s no manual save function in ADIOS so once you’ve cottoned on to how easily you can snuff it, your sense of peril will always be hovering nervously at the back of your mind, even when you’re drifting serenely through the mother of all asteroid fields like the expert you now are. Your journey’s saving Grace, however, is the shortcut. At points during your voyage, you automatically create a shortcut, which is effectively a save point if you can reach it. When you die you can opt to re-start at any of the shortcuts, but the catch is your progress won’t be recorded on the leaderboard. While progress can be very tuff, the shortcuts do help enormously and the new discoveries you’ll make also help to keep you focused and motivated.
While you’re in open space, you have the option of three different views. There is a wide view that lets you see the general area and planetary placements. This is great for tracking your gravitational drift. Next there is a medium view that’s much better for avoiding reasonably close-range objects. Lastly there is a close up view that’s for slower and more delicate manoeuvring. When you’re on a planet you’ll automatically switch to close-up, but while in open space, you can switch between them manually. Unfortunately, the view will also switch itself in open space depending on the situation and it’s not always welcome and can be disorientating. As sudden disorientation can be deadly, I would prefer to have total control.
ADIOS looks very nice. The graphics are colourful, sharp and very cute. In particular your astronaut is so cute you’d consider giving him a thorough tummy raspberry if it wasn’t likely to send him soaring off into the black nothingness of the cosmos. There are fifteen trophies including one gold to collect and getting 100% will be an achievement to be proud of.
Amazing Discoveries in Outer Space is a tough but charming little space exploration game. Flight is easily the most challenging aspect, with gravitational drifts messing with your perception of which way is forwards. This is a journey that requires management, skill, patience and a whole lot of luck if you’re going to get ZING and his little pilot home
S J Hollis Rating – 7/10