The idea of being in space is frightening enough for most people, but how about waking up stranded in space, all alone and with your surroundings smashed to small chunks by something that you don’t even know about? No, I’m not talking about Sandra Bullock in Gravity (although that WAS awesome), but Adr1ft: a game about being stuck in space, alone, with… well, you get the idea.
The most obvious thing about Adr1ft is just how gorgeous everything is out in space. From the remaining chunks of the shattered space station, to distance stars and the Earth below there are several moments when you want to just stop still for a moment and admire the view. The sound, too, is beautifully handled, with the vacuumed silence of space emphasised by the breathing of the female astronaut you’re controlling, wonderful atmospheric and gentle music, and the robotic voice of the station’s computer systems. This, without a shadow of a doubt, is a game to play with the lights off and a decent set of headphones on.
The main idea is to get the computer systems up and running as much as possible, with each area typically on separate parts of the ruined station. This means a lot of floating through space between areas, and with your suit leaking oxygen your main objective between… well… objectives, is to stay alive by grabbing oxygen cylinders as often as you can. It breaks up the long, slow and arduous space-drift between checkpoints, but it still takes a bit too long to get around thanks to the feeble crawl your suit can manage using the oxygen bursts. It definitely leaves you plenty of chance to admire the scenery, and some of the indoors areas still in tact look pretty stunning (it’s an amazing moment to open an airlock door to see a room full of plants in full bloom, offering a mini space garden) but you feel like the game could’ve been compressed considerably with a slightly quicker suit.
As well as oxygen you’ll find emails and audio logs, giving details about the others who were on the space station before the incident, and offering some good insight into who was to blame for everything going wrong. I’m still not entirely sure just what went wrong, you’re not told at the beginning and my own exploration didn’t give any concrete answers despite some desperate sounding communication attempts from mission control down on Earth, and it would’ve been nice to have found something, or heard something, near the start which let me know just why I’d gone from valued scientist to survival candidate.
It’s quite difficult to know whether I enjoyed Adr1ft or not. I love everything to do with space, so being able to float around with full 3D movement, looking at the Earth as it passes from day to night, with the northern lights occasionally gliding into view. As a visual spectacle there’s no doubt of the quality you’ll get, and the first time you see some of the sights on offer you’ll find yourself sat with your mouth slightly open in wonder, but it’s a shame that things take slightly longer than ideal. I get that you wouldn’t want to lose control by going too fast, and the slow progress give an extra dimension of desperation, but the balance isn’t quite right.
But when I think about what sticks in the mind the most about Adr1ft, it’s the atmosphere, and it’s handled very well indeed. I took loads of screenshots while playing, but they don’t do the game justice in isolation. If you can handle the fact that this is a slow game, then you’ll really enjoy it. But those with less patience, or prefer a bit more action to their games, should steer clear.
Reviewed on PS4