Bought the farm.
Narrative games have come a long way over the last several years, with the best of the genre learning well from what preceded them. I think of them as playable stage plays. You’re one of the actors, only you didn’t study your lines and you’re not entirely sure exactly where to stand. That sounds more awkward than they feel in practice, but my point is that you’re here for the writing, the performances, the people, the experience. Many narrative games fail to deliver in one area or another but the ones that really “get” it hit hard and leave scars in your memory. And folks? This one’s got it.
Adios is a hell of a ride from start to finish and warrants at least two plays. It gets its hooks in from minute one and doesn’t let go, even after the credits roll. I’m still not sure I’m free of this thing. That’s meant in a good way, I promise. My first play left me stunned, not due to a particularly twisty ending or a shocking revelation, but because it hurt. It hurt to watch, it hurt to finish. And it hurt good, but that’s difficult to elaborate on without spoilers so I’m going to organize this review a bit oddly to compensate. First we’ll talk about the game in broad strokes and why it works without delving into plot spoilers. Then on page 2 I’m going to do a sort of mini-book club in which I talk about some of the parts that really lodged themselves in my mind. Sound good?
In order to explain what Adios is I must first explain what it’s not. This isn’t a “do the bad thing and get told how naughty you are” video game story. This is the story of a man who’s already done the bad thing, and continued to do the bad thing, and has tried in the past to stop doing the bad thing but failed, and is enabled by the only people left around him to continue doing the bad thing for their benefit. A man whose life has been reduced to a seemingly endless cycle of routine enabled and punctuated by that bad thing. And he is done. Finished. Kaput. Today he puts his foot down, and today he accepts the consequences of his actions.
You, the player, control the pig farmer on that day. You play through a sequence of scenes, most of which are reached by walking to specific areas and triggering them in whatever order you please. You spend most of the day followed by your contact from the mob, who may be the closest thing to a friend the farmer has left. You’ll do chores together, visit your animals, work on projects, the sorts of things a man does when he expects to wake up the next morning. And you’ll talk with him the entire time as he tries to convince you that feeding human remains to your pigs is something that you should probably keep doing, if only for your own good.
This world is lived in. You won’t learn about everything that led to the farmer getting to this point, but there’s enough. Your hitman friend has been there for a lot of it, but not all of it. His assistant has seen even less. He doesn’t know everything you know, nor everything you’ve been through. And eventually you, the player, will come to understand why the farmer is so dead set on this course of action despite making bad decisions for such a long time seemingly unabated. His soul is heavy, he feels that pull, and you will too.
One of my favorite touches are the dialog options, or in some cases the lack thereof. Many conversations can go in different directions depending on which option you select but what stood out to me were several in which the farmer has something he wants to say but can’t for one reason or another. You can read these but they’re grayed out, and attempting to select them results in a grunt and the option falling offscreen, effectively being dismissed by the man himself. It’s an immensely effective way to represent inner thoughts that feels far more organic than monologuing, something that the game mostly avoids. Adios isn’t afraid to leave you in silence and it’s all the better for it.
But don’t let my praise of silence and text gloss over what may be the single strongest aspect of the game’s presentation – the performances. The game’s voicework is nothing short of excellent. This is a play with very few players but every single one of them nails their role perfectly. Adios wouldn’t work in text alone. It relies on tonal delivery and being able to do things while characters are talking too much for that. Everyone involved did an absolutely incredible job of giving their characters grounded, realistic reactions to each other and creating conversations that felt human, far more so than most games do. When I say this game’s world is “lived in” this is a major reason why. Prospective voice actors and directors should take notes on what Mischief has managed to achieve here; it is truly on another level.
I could talk about all the things I came to realize about the farmer and his “friends” but I’m content to let the game do that for me. I’m going to let this be the end of the review. As I mentioned there’s more to this that I need to get off my chest, to share the impact this game had on me in my plays, so please feel free to return and read the next page if you’ve played it and want to see what else I’ve got to say. For now, I have a recommendation.
Take time out to play Adios. Mute your phone for a bit. Focus in from start to finish and you’ll experience a game with more emotional resonance than most in the medium in the time it takes to watch a movie. It’s a best-in-class example of narrative-first design, something that will elicit genuine emotional response in its players. At one point it drew tears from me, a jaded critic-type who thought he’s seen everything this medium we love could do. A video game that’s capable of such a thing is worth its weight in gold.
PC review copy provided by Post Horn PR. Head to the next page for book club.