If you’ve seen Gravity, you know the basic plot of Adr1ft. You’re an astronaut on a trashed space station, and you’re trying to get the hell back on Earth. So does this simple plot benefit from adding some game mechanics to it? Well… to some degree.
Adr1ft (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
It’s got to be said, this is one beautiful game. Considering the entire conceit is that you’ve got no gravity, it works that idea to the hilt with lots of gorgeous floating items, stunning space-scapes, and giant floating chunks of space station you can explore in three dimensions. Especially for the budget price of $20, this looks great. The audio isn’t quite up to the visuals, as it’s mostly whooshing sounds and bleeps with the standard Ominous Synths overlaid. But, overall, it’s fairly polished for an indie title.
Remember those old, old-school “space sims” where the physics were trying to be realistic, so you’d drift with momentum no matter what and turning had a fuel cost? Adr1ft is that, but in first person, and it works surprisingly well. It’d better, since the meat of this game is entirely moving around and picking up things, but part of the fun of the game is to navigate through the environments without slamming into something.
You’d be forgiven for filing Adr1ft under the “walking simulator” category, like Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture or Firewatch, but there’s a rather crucial difference here. Our heroine is trapped in a damaged spacesuit, and her oxygen supply and her thrusters are a “shared” resource. In other words, if you want to move, it’s going to cost you precious oxygen, if you bump into something, it’ll cost you oxygen, and if you’re exposed to hard vacuum, you’re going to steadily lose oxygen until you get behind an airlock. Fortunately, this space station is filled with oxygen bottles, so much of the game involves figuring out how to get from point A to point B without dying, with point B either being the next spot on the map or a goodie placed somewhere around the game world.
Granted, that’s a bit thin, gameplay-wise, and it could have stood to have more mechanics or more tools to get around with. Another problem is that there’s lots of story, but it’s fundamentally uninteresting. Wandering through a trashed space station is a lot more interesting than finding out one of your coworkers had an ex-wife and a kid he loved very much. The controls will take a bit of getting used to, and the lack of a map can be a bit much; you’ll have to backtrack through areas and the architecture can repeat a bit if you’re not paying attention, something tightening up the level design would have helped with. Still, the novelty of its concept carries the game a surprisingly long way.
That said, it won’t stick around very long. Unless you go hunting for the hard-to-get collectibles, you’re probably going to be done with this game in about six hours.
That this game won’t work with the PSVR will likely frustrate some. But we played it “flat” on a PS4 and it was just as engaging as it would be with goggles, and besides, at $20 it’s hard to complain.
Adr1ft could stand a bit more in the way of mechanics and puzzle design, and it definitely needs better writing. But it’s a fun, unique game in its own right, and if you’re looking for something different during the summer doldrums, it’s the perfect game.
Verdict: Worth A Chance
This review was conducted with a review code of the PS4 version provided by 505.