If you’re a Nintendo fan, you should pull out your calendar and put a big red circle around March 27th. This is the day when both the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U eShop officially close their doors. It’s your last chance to snag digital copies of all digital games, from Virtual Console classics to first-party exclusives.
There’s no shortage of good games worth picking up before that deadline, although some of the system’s best titles can be purchased on other platforms. However, there is one game that is in a precarious position: Affordable space adventures. If you have even a passing interest in the Wii U exclusive, you’ll need to act fast, as it’s set to become completely extinct by the end of the month.
Affordable space adventures is an indie game developed by Swedish developer Nicklas Nygren. Unlike many indies released on the Wii U, it was never ported to any other platform. That’s because it’s one of the rare games that has actually dared to exploit the system’s two-screen premise. That makes it arguably the best game of the platform era, as it’s a true example of how the Wii U gamepad can create innovative experiences.
As the name indicates, Affordable space adventures is about a galactic tourist who buys a cheap trip to the stars. This, of course, wobbles as well as you’d expect, and they’re stranded in space piloting a rickety ship. On TV, the game plays as a standard 2D puzzle where players must navigate their ship around lasers, aliens and other hazards.
The unique trick, however, is that the Wii U gamepad acts as the ship’s control panel. Using the touch screen, players manage all ship functions as they travel around. Some of these are simple, like controlling the ship’s scanner or lowering the landing gear. Others are more complex and offer a unique systems management experience in the middle of a puzzle. Players must keep track of meters like heat and electricity, and tinker with their two engines to ensure the ship runs smoothly at all times. It’s a tactile experience that really puts players in the cockpit without having to switch to the first-person perspective.
When it comes to Wii U games, Affordable space adventures is almost in a class of its own. It’s the rare game for the system to understand how a second screen can be transformative. Most of the games on the platform didn’t quite know what to do with the gamepad and threw menus or maps at it. Even Nintendo seemed to abandon the idea at the end of the console’s lifespan and not use it at all. Affordable space adventures both highlighted how unique and unused it was. To date, I haven’t had as much fun with the system as I have with dialing down with the slower to keep my ship from bursting into flames.
Unfortunately, the indie gem’s unbridled creativity ends on a bittersweet note. Because it was built specifically for the Wii U, it was never ported to any other system. And how could it be? The entire experience hinges on a weird tech gimmick that was a commercial failure for Nintendo. With no physical release to keep it alive, Affordable space adventures dies with the eShop on March 27 – a devastating blow to video game preservation.
So think of this as a kind of PSA: if you want to give it a try, get your Wii U out of storage and blow the dust away as soon as you can. You only have a few weeks to play an excellent indie that will be lost over time.
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