"Sorry for blowing up our ship."
My partner and I traded sheepish apologies more than once during my multiplayer experience with Affordable Space Adventures. With me navigating the ship's engines and him in the captain's chair, we quickly learned that surviving the game's clouded, dark world takes a little talk and a lot of working together.
Like its multiplayer, Affordable Space Adventures is a collaboration — a joint effort between Knytt Underground creator Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren and Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party developer KnapNok Games. The Wii U title is loosely inspired by Henry Smith's Spaceteam, a mobile game in which players have to verbally communicate (mostly through shouting) to accomplish their goals.
In Affordable Space Adventures, one player steers with the remote, while another is charged with managing the ship's many systems — thrusters, mass, scanner and more — on the GamePad. To get through the game's puzzle-filled world, players need to coordinate on navigation and engine systems. Or die trying.
"You're getting to know each other."
During a recent Game Developers Conference event in San Francisco, producer Dajana Dimovska explained that KnapNok wants players to interact, rather than just stare at a screen.
"It's meant to make you talk to each other — communicate strongly — because if you don't do that, you really fail," Dimovska said. "If you do that, you do it better than playing yourself."
My partner and I traded roles a few times. While I navigated the ship, dodging deadly lasers and searching through dark tunnels, he fueled my progress by keeping the engine running or giving my thrusters more juice. As the engineer to his flight, I scanned probes to track their line of sight, which he carefully avoided.
Dimovska said that the team imagines the game's multiplayer as a great setting for a parent and child duo. Navigating the ship is easy enough for a child to take over, while piloting GamePad controls is more suited to a player able to juggle many systems at once.
Affordable Space Adventures also offers a single-player campaign in which players assume the role of captain and engineer, which Dimovska recommends for players seeking a different experience.
"You have to experience it yourself because it's really kind of emotional," Dimovska said. "Every time you get hit, it's a very personal experience as well. It gives a very hostile feeling. But when you play with two, it really becomes a bit more party setting. You're getting to know each other."