Review: Adios

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually experienced anything quite like what I did when I played through Adios. I don’t mean to imply that I was awestruck by it by any means, because I genuinely found it to be an incredibly underwhelming game to play. Yet despite its numerous mechanical shortcomings, this narrative-focused, first-person adventure game delivered a really impactful story that left me feeling pretty raw emotionally.

It’s hard to talk about Adios without wandering directly into spoiler territory because the game is only about an hour or so long, so I’m just going to talk about the first 5 minutes of the game to avoid anything too spoilery. The store page for Adios reads, “A pig farmer decides he no longer wants to dispose of bodies for the mob. What follows is a discussion between him and his would-be killer,” which was a pretty interesting concept that was the catalyst for me playing it at all.

The first thing you do in Adios is check your journal while sitting on your porch. Inside, the lone entry essentially says to “tell him that you’re done.” A white van pulls up and you’re thrust into the next scene where you’re taking wrapped bloody packages out of the back of said van, and chucking them into the pig pen alongside your would-be killer. What follows is a series of conversations and interactive vignettes with you and your would-be killer about their lives and experiences. It turns out that both of these characters have been doing this for so long that they’ve become close friends, a fact that looms over every conversation you have together throughout the day.

Your would-be killer is trying to convince your character to not stop doing what they’ve been doing for so long because the consequences are admittedly pretty bad. He spends the entire day with you trying to remind you of all of these reasons to stay and stick it out without explicitly ever saying that it’s the worst and final decision that you’ll ever make. Throughout the game you’ll learn more about both characters and their personal lives, while they both try to walk a delicate line between work and pleasure. It’s one of the few games that’s really emotionally impacted me, with the last one being The Bonus World’s very first Game of the Year back in 2017, Night in the Woods.

What made Night in the Woods great was a multitude of elements coming together in a well-rounded experience that had an incredible narrative woven throughout it. Adios on the other hand, is done a gigantic disservice by even being a video game. For how good the story, writing and acting can feel at times, they’re all unfortunately wrapped up in something that can barely be called a game, let alone a fun one. The structure of Adios is that you have a few locations of interest on your farm that trigger a scene for you to experience. In that scene you might need to do a mindless and mechanically uninteresting task like give a horse an apple while the two characters reminisce about the past. You finish listening to the conversation and move to the next scene. Most of these conversations are really well done, providing insight into the characters while uncovering their motivations, desires and general outlook on life. These are really the star of the show, so if listening to people talk isn’t your thing, then Adios has very little else to offer.

But these little vignettes you experience might not have anything for you to do in them at all. Sometimes you can just put the controller down as dialogue happens, only to occasionally pick a “dialogue choice,” all of which either don’t change anything about the story, or are grayed out for some reason. My guess is that there isn’t actually a way to pick those dialogue options, because they usually are things you’d rather say but your character can’t bring themselves to actually do. In this case, I thought that was very effective, but it doesn’t change the fact that most of these vignettes have you do a lot of sitting and listening.

When I bought Adios I thought it would be this little life-simulation kind of game with a heavy emphasis on the story. I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary mechanically, but it cannot be overstated just how bad playing the game itself is at times. The first issue has to do with the presentation of Adios in general. From far away, the sweeping vistas of houses and farms in the distance have this painterly quality to them that I can appreciate. Up close however, things look a lot muddier. Look, I’m not one of those people who needs great graphics for everything especially if you’re very clearly trying to tell a compelling story over having dazzling visuals, but if that’s truly the case, maybe the character models should animate a touch better, or at the very least have any form of lip-syncing going on. Instead you’ve just got these weird caricatures that flap their gums at you while saying some heavy shit.

I don’t know what resources were available to the development team so I don’t want to sound too harsh, but it was truly disheartening to find this really engaging story completely mired by uninteresting game mechanics and iffy visuals. The worst part was that there were moments where I’d start to zone out while the characters were having these really intense conversations. I think Adios would be infinitely better if it were a short film or animated feature, because being a game doesn’t really enhance the story in any way, and in most cases detracts from an otherwise excellent experience.

But all of these issues with the gameplay were never enough to stop me from seeing Adios through to the end, and I’m happy I pushed forward. The ending of the game and the events directly leading into it were particularly gut-wrenching and left me feeling a bit teary-eyed when it was all over. Of course it wont affect everyone the same way it did me, but that should be a result of the story not resonating with them, not the uninspired and boring gameplay they have to endure.

Despite all of my criticisms, I do think Adios is worth experiencing. I don’t know that I’d suggest you run out and pay $20 bucks for an hour long story, but if you have the desire and ability, I say go for it. Otherwise, I’d say you should wait for a sale to play Adios, but either way, you should play Adios at some point.

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