“A pig farmer decides he no longer wants to dispose of bodies for the mob. What follows is a discussion between you, and the hitman who will have to kill you if he can’t convince you to stay.”
That’s the elevator pitch for Adios and it instantly had me interested to play the game. I’ve been following the narrative designer DocSquiddy on Twitter for some time and the guy always had interesting opinions, but it dawned on me I hadn’t actually played any of his games yet. I’m reviewing this game to rectify that.
As far as story set-ups go, the melancholic settings where it quickly becomes clear you’re probably not surviving the whole ordeal are always super intriguing to me. Somehow knowing that you’re going to die or that the protagonist is going to die (eg: American Beauty) acts as a stress-relief and with the stakes being lowered, it makes more room for the human element and accepting what’s about to happen.
At the very start of the game, you’re telling a mob hitman that you’re no longer helping them by disposing of the chopped-up victims by feeding them to your pigs. He’s quick to imply that this end-of-contract also means the end of your life, but our protagonist seems to be ok with that. The hitman then decides to spend the day on your farm, trying to talk you out of it.
The entire game takes place in a single location, yet by the end of it, you’ll truly feel like you’ve gotten to know these characters and their motivations a lot better. The farm itself looks pretty good and has a kind of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead vibe to it, but with less cartoony characters in it.
And visually that’s perhaps its biggest weakness: the human characters do not seem accurate compared to the narrative. When you’re talking to the hitman, it becomes clear you’re both aged and probably around 50-60, yet the hitman doesn’t look a day over 35. As soon as I learned about their history together, I felt an emotional disconnect from the character on-screen that I couldn’t quite shake until the credits rolled.
It’s also the way he moves his mouth, His awkward animations and how he stalks you from a close distance around the farm and generally interacts with the environment that constantly takes you out of the experience and screams: “THIS IS A GAME!”
It’s not just the human characters that suffer from this, but also the other creatures walking or floating around the farm. The pigs, the horse and the goats all have this empty stare in their eyes that makes me scared to blink.
“Hold up, forget about their eyes, did you just say ‘floating around’ ?”
Yes, when I played the game, there was a buggy scene in which we were milking invisible goats and at the end of it, the goats floated in…
“Now you’re doing it again, the fact that they were invisible is clearly more interesting than the floating part!”
Ah, yes. Maybe. Would you like to see?
Ok. They weren’t really invisible, they just hadn’t loaded into position yet. But throughout my ~2 hour playtime with the game, there were a ton of technical issues where I had to reload the scene because I felt like something wasn’t quite right with the games’ programming:
- Items falling through the floor
- A door not opening
- Voice-lines being spoken at the wrong scene
- The hitman blocking your path
- Mini-games not loading correctly
Other than technical issues, there were also a few weird design choices. Early on, Chapter 2 or 3, I wanted to start the game over to start recording a YouTube playthrough, but found that there was no “New Game” or “Delete savefile” option, which meant I had to play through the game until the end, just to see the start again. (luckily for achievement hunters, there is a chapter select after the first time you beat it)
When a character has a lot of voice lines in a movie, you’d see them split up over multiple frames, but in Adios, they seem to want to cram as much text into the screen as possible. It’s not really a bother: the info you need is still there, but it was yet again an element that broke the immersion, with me suddenly focusing on the huge wall of text instead of on what’s happening in the scene.
There is also a weird preference to use physics-based gameplay, that I can’t quite understand for such a narrative game experience. In the scene above, you don’t just press X to hand the hitman a can of Root Bear, no, you kind of have to throw it at him. And at the right time in his animation loop. And at the right distance. And aimed at his hands. I think. If you miss by an inch, the can jetissons off into the opposite direction as if you had shaken it and opened it.
There’s a scene a thousand times worse than this at the end of the game when you’re preparing your final meal and the kitchen knife gets catapulted across the room when you pick up a vegetable. A simple “press X to pick up food > Press X to place it on the cutting board > Press RT a few times to chop” would have been so much easier and would have kept the immersion-breaking Mr Bean-like situations that happened to me at the end. Melancholy & broody atmosphere had made way for slapstick humour. (EDIT: this has been made a lot better in a patch)
Speaking of the button usage, I played through a large part of the game, only using X to interact with objects. It was even there as a prompt on screen so I knew to use it. Then all of a sudden, when I’m asked to pop the hood of a car, I thought the game was broken or I didn’t find the exact location of where to interact.
Turns out, I had to use RT on the door, a button I hadn’t had to use until now. Which would have been fine…
…If there was a promt. So again: just some weird design choices. (EDIT: this has been fixed in a patch)
Some of the times I got stuck, I just blame on myself though. The game starts with asking you to check your journal (see the very first screenshot in this review) and I had admittedly forgotten to check it because there was also a distance indicator telling me where to go and how far away I was from the next objective.
Until suddenly, there wasn’t. I had been using this distance indicator as crutch to tell me what to do and where to go next and when it was missing, I again thought it was just the game acting up.
What I had to do, was check the journal and it told me to call my son and the neighbour. I thought I had already checked the CB radio upstairs and the phone in the kitchen, but what was apparently expected of me, was interaction with the tiny post-its above the phone in the kitchen.
This could just me being stupid (in fact, that’s a very real possibility) but I was quite litterally stuck in this scene and needed the dev’s help to guide me through it (yes, I’ll have my gamer card revoked now).
It’s the sum of these technical issues and weird design choices that ultimately lead to the negative review score but I do hope you’ll take my word for this: The game is still worth playing, despite its shortcomings.
There is a great narrative in Adios, that on its own, is definitely worth experiencing. I just think the game could have benefited from more end-user testing, with developers looking over the player’s shoulder and seeing where they got stuck or struggled. It’s very possible the lack of real-world events is at the root of this, as I’ve seen other games suffer the same fate, but maybe I’m just jumping to ill-informed conclusions.
Speaking of conclusions…
Adios spins an interesting tale about saying your goodbyes, but it’s hampered by a ton of technical issues that pull the player away from any possible immersion. It’s a careful recommended play, despite its current low score, provided that the bugs get fixed down the line.
EDIT: Some of the UI issues and bugs have already been fixed by a recent patch. I can’t edit the score of the review (Our site is listed on a few review aggregators and that’s a rule they have) but with these fixes I’d rate it a 55/100 in its current state.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Xbox Series X. Review copy provided by the developer.