I love a good story. For my money, there’s nothing I appreciate more in a video game than a compelling narrative and great characters. Something that will stick with you long after you set the controller down. But at the end of the day, video games are an interactive art form, so can story alone be enough to make a game good?
Adios is a first person narrative adventure from developer Mischief. It tells the story of a pig farmer who moonlights for the mafia by disposing of bodies for them (by, you guessed it, feeding them to the pigs). After years of doing this work, the farmer decides that he’s had enough and wants to hang up his pitchfork. When his longtime friend (and mob hitman) delivers another body to get rid of, he gathers up the courage to tell him that he’s out. But as you can probably guess, it’s not that simple.
Adios is a brisk game, at just under 90 minutes it goes quickly and is easily playable in one sitting. The story of a man getting on in years and coming to terms with his life is what this game lives or dies on, and in that respect it succeeds pretty well. The story is well written and features solid voice acting throughout. It’s not the most intricate of plots, there are no shocking twists or surprises, and from the beginning you pretty much know where this story is headed, but it’s well told and there’s a beautiful melancholy to it. And it’s a good thing that the story and acting are well executed because it doesn’t have much else to hang it’s hat on.
Most of the game is simply listening to conversations, but the parts which are interactive are quite lackluster. As you walk with your friend around the farm you’ll do chores and simple tasks, none of which are particularly entertaining or engaging, and can often times be glitchy or frustrating. You’ll shovel manure, feed your horse, and work on your old El Camino. Most of these require very minimal input from the player but they still manage to mess up the simplest of interactions.
One scene has the farmer showing the hitman how to milk a goat, unfortunately the goats failed to enter the barn on cue so they proceeded to milk thin air. That looked silly enough, but when the goats did decide to make their entrance they skated in as if on ice, as their legs failed to animate. In another scene you’re required to prepare a meal for yourself, which seems simple enough but was an exercise in frustration. As I took ingredients out of the refrigerator I discovered that there didn’t appear to be a button prompt to simply set objects down, so I would toss the carrots and potatoes onto the counter hoping that they wouldn’t bounce onto the floor, then chop them with a knife that I would have to toss aside in the same matter. Thank god for the five second rule because I was picking dinner up off of the floor left and right. When I finally finished preparing my meal, I tried to set it down only to see it fall directly through the kitchen table and disappear through the floor below. Oh well, I wasn’t hungry anyway.
You’re also presented with dialogue options throughout the game, but it never makes it clear what effect, if any, those options have on the way in which scenes play out. Often times I would be presented with multiple choices in a conversation but 2 or 3 of the options would be greyed out, and no clear reason as to what I did or said that would have limited my choices. If there are multiple endings or branching narratives that might add to the replay of the game, they do a good job of hiding it.
Presentation wise it doesn’t fair much better. The environments are actually okay and can even look quite nice in a simplistic kind of way, but the characters are another matter. The character models are unimpressive, but not offensively bad. It’s the animation where things really suffer. Characters mouths move like ventriloquist dummies, giving conversations an awkwardness that betrays the well acted dialogue, and during the chores around the farm the animation is minimal to the point that characters aren’t moving the way in which the actors are depicting them to. In the scene I mentioned where they fix the El Camino, the voice acting describes him as checking under the hood and tightening wires, while the character model just hovers over the hood and glances at the engine.
It’s really too bad that the “game” part of Adios is such a let down, because the story and performances really are quite nice. Listening as the farmer struggles with what he knows is coming and wrestles with the morality of his choices and the way it has hurt his family can be poignant and engaging. It kept me interested until the end even if I wasn’t enjoying the package that the storytelling was wrapped in.
After the credits rolled I couldn’t help but feel like this would have made a much more interesting indie film, or a stage play, or perhaps if it was wrapped inside of a better game than it could have been something much more impressive. As it stands, it’s a well told story of a man coming to terms with his life and a game that fails to impress in any meaningful way. Either way it’s a tragedy.
Adios is available now on Xbox and PC