Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Should Probably Play This: ASA: A Space Adventure Review

You Should Probably Play This is my positive review column. In it, I'll review a game that I think needs more attention. It may be an obscure oldie, something that was released recently with little fanfare, or something that was badly received on release but has since been made better. This time: An adventure... in space.

You know what the main failing of Myst was?  It wasn't set in space.  I know, it's an obvious flaw, but I guess Cyan just didn't playtest their game enough.  Luckily, a Frenchman from France has come out of... France to mend this issue with ASA: A Space Adventure.  At this point in the review you probably already know whether you're interested in the game or not, but I'll continue just for the heck of it.

How peaceful.
ASA: A Space Adventure is a game by Simon Mesnard in the grand tradition of first-person adventure games such as Myst, Dark Fall, and The Last Express.  This means three things, effectively: 1. First-person exploration.  2. A focus on challenging puzzles.  3. A world constructed out of pre-rendered images in a slideshow style.  ASA delivers on all of those, you lovers of this sort of game will be glad to know.

I don't know what the name of the spaceman you play is, so I'm going to call him Egbert.  One day, Egbert is hanging around the outside of the space station he's stationed at (repairing it, I think), when he sees a strange black cube float by.  As Kubrick aficionados know (the name of the game is not accidental), black rectangles in space are super awesome and also strangely seductive, so Egbert jumps off his space station and grabs onto the cube, floating into space and eventually running out of oxygen and passing out.  Egbert wakes up inside of a clean, white, probably Apple-built space station of mysterious origin.  From there you have to explore, solve puzzles, and figure out what's going on, while reading journals by the last person to end up here.
Aw man, I want one of those giant triangle ball things with a chair on the inside.  I would sit in it and pretend I was flying an alien spaceship and it would be awesome.  You don't even know.
Although I mentioned exploration, ASA isn't quite as non-linear as Myst.  One of the things that's quite unique about Myst is that it used a hub-based system, so if you got tired of a puzzle or world you could meander back to Myst Island and go do something else.  That's one of the few comparisons to Myst that ASA doesn't follow, however.  Although you have a bit of freedom of where you go and what you do, and there's a sense of exploration due to the nature of the game, for the most part there's a general order to do the puzzles in, even if it's not explicitly laid out in a straight line.  It's not a negative point, exactly, but it does mean that if you run up against a wall, you have to keep beating it with your face until it falls over.
I refuse to reference Space Oddity in this review.
Speaking of puzzles, how are they?  Well, quite good for the most part!  They have that adventure game problem of them sometimes seeming a bit out of place (why exactly do I have to arrange a color swatch to turn on a light?) but it's not really jarring in a game focused on puzzles instead of story.  They're quite varied: You'll have to decode an alien language, hack a computer, do the aforementioned color swatch thing and more.  And those are just early-game puzzles.  The puzzles are overall quite challenging right out of the gate, and they capture that "aha!" feel when you figure something out, so they should be pleasing to puzzlers.  For the most part the puzzles feel logical and hit that sweet spot that balances difficulty and actually making sense.

As I previously mentioned, ASA uses pre-rendered 3D graphics set up like a slideshow.  For modern gamers it might feel a bit dated, but I'm sure it'll please those who loved that style of game.  The images themselves are very high quality and look quite nice. There are rough edges in a couple of areas where the lighting makes it hard to see anything or the perspective is a bit odd (there was one area with a sort of fisheye that made me feel really short), but for the most part the environments are detailed and the images are crisp and high quality.
Riiiiiveeeeeen flaaaashbaaaaaack
I did notice a couple of visual issues that actually impacted gameplay, though.  There are occasionally some cursor issues: There was one room where the cursor got stuck on the "turn right" graphic no matter where you moved it, and there are a couple of cases where the direction you click doesn't seem to coincide with the direction you move.  In addition, I had an issue in one specific area due to a graphical issue.  See, you need to drag a plug into an outlet.  The problem however, is that you've never had to drag anything else in the game at that point, and the plug doesn't move when you click and drag on it.  This left me just clicking on the plug and wondering why nothing was happening, until I finally realized that you had to click on the plug, then mouse over the outlet and release, at which point the graphic would change to the plug being in the outlet.

Overall ASA is a very solid puzzle game with hard puzzles and an interesting enough plot to give a sense of purpose to everything.  It's not perfect, but it will most definitely scratch the itch of anyone looking for a good puzzle game, so check it out if it sounds like your kind of thing.  Various places to buy it from are laid out on the game's site.


  1. I had my eye on this one, since I like Mystlikes and I like the shiny visual style :P. It's on Greenlight as well.

    I'll probably have to give it a go at some point.

    1. I actually sort of had a hard time talking about the game. It's a solid Mystlike, so if you like Myst you'll probably like it and if you don't you probably won't. It is shiny, though. :3