Adr1ft Review (PC)
The infinite blackness of space wraps around you, apathetic to your suffering. A confetti of space debris threatens to slice what little remains of your space suit as you struggle to bound your way over the shattered hull of the space station. A beeping tone in your ear tries to inform you that you’re running out of air, but your tunnel vision and gasping breaths beat the beeps to it. If you can’t get this space station at least partially up and running, you’ll be dead in hours. The spatial adventure Adr1ft would be a hell of a thrill ride… if it weren’t so boring.
Adr1ft puts players in the role of astronaut Alex Oshima, who is apparently the lone survivor of a disaster aboard a space station. With nothing other than a damaged space suit and her wits, Alex has to navigate the ruined station amidst the infinite blackness of space if she wants to ever set foot on Terra Firma again, doing some light puzzle solving while managing the only resource that really matters- air.
As you might expect in a game set in space, you’ll be spending a lot of time floating around in zero Gs. Adr1ft creatively mimics what it feels like to float around untethered to gravity (or, at least, what I assume it would feel like since I’m not an astronaut), which makes for an interesting time jetting from point A to B, bumping into other free-floating objects... for a little while.
The free-floating experience quickly becomes tiresome and disorienting, and even with the smart auto-alignment and rapid stop functions for the controls, trying to get exactly where you want is a headache. This wouldn’t be such a problem if you weren’t on a perpetual countdown in the form of your oxygen meter, which serves as a timer, a life meter, and a movement meter. Stay still and you’ll breathe yourself to death. Move around too much and your oxygen-based jetpack will run you dry. Smack into too many walls and you’ll start hemorrhaging air. It’s clear this system was designed to keep Adr1ft tense even when not much is happening, but in actuality it mostly gets old having to chug cans of oxygen every three minutes like President Skroob in Space Balls.
The always-ticking clock does little to liven up your space adventure. Alex is a (mostly) silent protagonist, with infrequent bits of story delivered via audio logs scattered around the station and radio voices telling you where to go. Silent protagonists typically only work when they’re surrounded by lively, interesting characters in an exotic world. Here, Alex ends up feeling lifeless, and the blackness of space has rarely felt so cold. Were you spending more time solving puzzles, or doing anything really, the quiet story might not be such a problem. As it is most of Adr1ft is you, adrift, in a space station, with the rare puzzle thrown at you here and there and little else to occupy your mind.
Adr1ft’s visual design is a sparkling oasis amidst a dry sea; the space station and its various details, the far reaches of space, and the bright blue of the Earth all shine with a slick visual presentation. The audio, on the other hand, doesn’t click. The infrequent bits of music are generally kind of irritating, and since you’re in space there aren’t very many sound effects to speak of, save for the frequent obnoxious beeping of your suit telling you to get more oxygen, or that you’re in a dangerous environment. I know I’m always running out of air, and I know always in a dangerous environment because I’m in a destroyed space station. Thanks for the constant reminders.
Adr1ft tries to break away from the tropes of bombastic violence and self-congratulation found in so many video games, and for that, its development team should be lauded. It’s too bad that this game set in the black void of space didn’t find anything interesting enough to fill the void of its barely-existent gameplay. Adr1ft hits an uncomfortable balance between visual novel and video game; it has too many video game elements and too dry a story to make a good first-person experience, and it lacks enough fun to make for a good game.
This review is based upon a digital copy of Adrift provided by the publisher for PC.