By: Mike Chen
Imagine being marooned in space. That’s bad. Now imagine being marooned in space with your salvation just within reach, but your controls cause you to float right by it. That sums up Adr1ft, a novel idea that never quite gets past its literally floaty controls.
To survive in Adr1ft, you need to collect oxygen. To collect oxygen, you need to maneuver over there. That’s the tricky part of the game, because you’re in a free-floating environment, and you’ll need a good understanding of the game’s physics and momentum in order to get from Point A to Point B. Almost all of the possible buttons are involved with movement, from forward/backward boosts to vertical movement to full-stops.
There’s little forgiveness, which may be more realistic (I’ve never been in zero-G, so I couldn’t tell you), but it’s a tad frustrating for a game as Adr1ft was clearly designed for VR, where head tracking could help with precise movements.
As it stands, aiming the camera and moving with thumb sticks can sometimes get you juuuuuuuuuust out of reach of that precious oxygen canister, and since the game is all about momentum, many times you won’t have enough time to course-correct and grab it. For those that love precise movements, they’ll get a kick out of the freedom of Adr1ft, but others will find themselves rage quitting.
GRAPHICS & SOUND (4.25/5)
While Adr1ft was meant to be a VR experience, it still looks gorgeous on a TV screen. The colors pop, the vastness of space feels appropriately empty and the ambient audio gives you a proper feeling of isolation.
So much of the game is about the actual environment (as well as discovering pieces of the story along the way), and since a damaged space station doesn’t really need to push the graphical boundaries compared to, say, a new Gears of War or Uncharted title, everything is set in its proper context. You’ll feel isolated and desperate, but in a good way, as the sensory experience of the game evokes the right emotions for the actual gameplay.
Gone Home coined the term “walking simulator,” and Adr1ft may be the world’s first “floating simulator.” Your goal is to essentially float from Point A to Point B, fix the next issue in the space station and do so before running out of oxygen.
As you complete this five-hour journey, you’ll learn more about the fictional world and the situation that brought you to this point. There’s little combat, and the occasional environmental hazard (like sparking electricity) doesn’t do much to mask that you are floating to get oxygen and then floating to fix something.
The game is certainly successful in creating the tension of desperation and isolation when an oxygen tank is just out of your grasp. The problem is that it’s a one-shot kill situation, and it’d be like if you had to reset in Gone Home because you didn’t walk down the staircase in the most efficient fashion possible.
That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t intriguing, though it never fully delivers an explanation behind the space station’s dilemma. It’s just that the precision that is sometimes necessary to apply the game’s internal physics and just get that damn oxygen tank is frustrating enough — and the payoff is small enough — that the game comes off as more of a novelty than anything else.
Beautiful in its barren visuals but empty in actual content, Adr1ft is a unique tech demo with somewhat of a narrative. If you have a VR set, this will probably be one of the most nausea-inducing experiences available, but on a standard TV display, it’s only mildly recommended.