If you’re a Nintendo fan, you should pull out your calendar and put a big red circle around March 27. That’s the day that both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShop will officially shutter their doors. It’ll be your last chance to pick up digital copies of all digital games, from Virtual Console classics to first-party exclusives.
There is no shortage of good games worth picking up before that deadline happens, though some of the systems’ best titles can be purchased on other platforms. There’s one game in particular, though, that finds itself in a precarious position: Affordable Space Adventures. If you even have a passing interest in the Wii U exclusive, you’ll have to act fast, because it’ll go fully extinct at the end of the month.
Affordable Space Adventures is an indie game created by Swedish developer Nicklas Nygren. Unlike many indies released on the Wii U, it’s never been ported to another platform. That’s because it’s one of the rare games that actually dared to take advantage of the system’s two-screen premise. That makes it arguably the best game on the platform period, as it’s a true showcase of how the Wii U gamepad could create innovative experiences.
As its name implies, Affordable Space Adventures is about a galactic tourist who buys a cheap trip to the stars. Naturally, that shakes out about as well as you’d expect and they’re stranded in space piloting a rickety ship. On the TV, the game plays out as a standard 2D puzzler where players have to navigate their ship around lasers, aliens, and more hazards.
The unique trick, though, is that the Wii U gamepad acts as the ship’s control panel. By using the touch screen, players manage all of the ship’s functions while traveling around. Some of those are simple, like controlling the ship’s scanner or deploying landing gear. Others are more complex, putting a unique systems management experience in the middle of a puzzle game. Players have to keep track of meters like heat and electricity, fiddling with their two engines to make sure the ship runs smoothly at all times. It’s a tactile experience that really puts players in the cockpit without switching to a 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 that understood how a second screen could be transformative. Most games on the platform didn’t quite know what to do with the gamepad, throwing menus or maps on it. Even Nintendo seemed to give up on the idea by the end of the console’s lifespan, not utilizing it at all. Affordable Space Adventures both highlighted how unique and underutilized it was. To this day, I haven’t had as much fun with the system as I did dialing down by decelerator to keep my ship from bursting into flames.
Unfortunately, the indie gem’s unbridled creativity is ending on a bittersweet note. Due to the fact that it was specifically built for the Wii U, it was never ported to another system. And how could it be? The entire experience hinges on an oddball 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 consider this something of a PSA: If you want to give it a try, get your Wii U out of storage and blow the dust off it as soon as you can. You only have a few weeks to play an excellent indie that’s about to be lost to time.
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