A pig farmer who is paid by the mob to dispose bodies decides to stop working for them, despite knowing that it will mean his permanent retirement. That is the description of Adios the game, but it is also a description of a lot of self-contained scenes in larger crime movies; the juxtaposition of the mundane routine workings of an organization with the grizzly requirements of organized crime; the understanding of doing something wrong and refusing to do it any longer even though that will mean your dying. There’s a sadness to that, a melancholy, which results in the audience fully understanding what the Mafia is: a cold-hearted organization that has a hierarchy, goals, and employees who work to meet those goals and rise in that hierarchy. You don’t quit or get fired; you survive/thrive, or you die. Adios has wonderful writing and a clearly inspired team behind it who knew exactly how to capture that feeling and what that scene looks like in a game, but it is also – unfortunately – not as playful or creative as I would have liked; even removing those ambitions, there are certain elements that have an amateurish quality to them that break the immersion vital to capturing those feelings. At its current state and price point, Adios is not as compelling as it could be with a slight sale and a few updates, however I am by no means discouraging potential customers from it, because the elements that matters the most vary from pretty good to sublime.
The game starts with you sitting on your porch as a white van pulls up on your property. At this point the game hints that you can open up your journal, which has one entry: Tell him I want to stop. ‘He’ is a hitman and a friend of yours, who will attempt to convince you to not stop, because stopping means you dying by his gun, so you will spend a day with him doing chores and tending to your farm, having conversations and reminiscing about the past as the hitman tries to make you reconsider. From the opening moments, you can tell where the game will excel at and where it will stumble; as the van pulls up to your driveway and you stare at the picturesque background, you’ll really respond positively to the art style and its dated appeal. Then, you’ll get a closer look at the character models, the animal models, and their animations, which will make you wince and break your immersion immediately – as the game goes on, the technical performance will leave a lot to be desired and some minor bugs will have you restarting scenes, which is a shame since the game feels appropriately styled but never demanding anything that a mid-range laptop couldn’t handle, let alone the next-gen Series X. However, you will also hear the fantastic lead actors give personality and gravitas that the models are not able to, and you’ll get to engage with the dialogue choice system that is a particular highlight of the game; it looks like stock engine layout, but the looks are not where the game’s emphasis is. After the farmer confesses his desire to stop, the hitman will ask you to help feed the pigs (you pick whatever and do whatever you want, I declined to help him yet still picked up the “meat” and fed it to the pigs) and will ask you if there’s anything he can do to change your mind; the only answer is no, but you get to choose which no sets the stage better. Is it a firm no that will not be altered? Is it a deflated no coming from a man tired and broken? Is it an extend of good will towards the hitman, welcoming him to try even though you know nothing will change your mind? Regardless of what you pick (in this scene or in any other scene) the result will be the same, but how that plays out in the scene you are in and in the totality of the story, is the most important decision and that is granted to the player.
This is where the game truly shines in its execution; the writing and the story, and how the game presents it to the player. Sometimes, it is through choices that can be selected whose information synopsis gives exposition and piques interest; other times, it is through choices that cannot be selected, because regardless of how much your character wants to say those things, he knows he can’t. Often, it is through the conversations the farmer has with the hitman and some other characters, which is where the sublime writing shines through. Adios is a game about a man who has been doing some wrong things in order to get money, who decides that he’s had enough; the reason why he got into this business, why he’s had enough, what he’s dealt with and what he’s dealing with now, is something that the game is playfully exploring. A memorable example of that is when the farmer and the hitman have a conversation about the farmer’s tree, which is symbolically and literally important to him as it becomes apparent later on. The game’s pretty short in length, which actually helps scenes like that to be fresh in the memory of the player and allows them to connect the dots, which is much more satisfying and becomes a connecting tool for the player to engage with the characters and the story in a deeper way.
Despite how good the writing is and how satisfying the story is as a whole, Adios is still a game and the interactivity it has needs to be significant. As with most “walking sims”, Adios uses the interactivity to “trick” the player into connecting with the protagonist – I have no problem with this utility, some of my favorite games have very simplified gameplay that is carried by the story – as well as, having some very rudimentary mini-games; you press a button to pick up things, press another to use them. You’ll milk goats, make dinner, shovel manure, and a few other mini-games that are not even QTEs, but a stress ball equivalent; there’s no challenge or even the façade of a challenge, this is just something to do while experiencing the story. Again, I have no problem with this, however given how little complexity the game has, it is pretty bewildering how janky the controls are; they are not properly explained and they are context-sensitive, which sometimes simply doesn’t trigger or doesn’t give adequate feedback if they do trigger, which left me wandering if I was doing something wrong or the game had glitched. Moreover, the game is oozing with atmosphere and wants you to linger in every scene, but it forgets to give reasons for doing that; a great example of this is a scene where you can explore the farmer’s house and can find your son’s room where there is a pick-up and a tape deck with records and tapes scattered around. That is such a bittersweet, Americana moment of a man looking back at his past and his legacy as a father, while listening to appropriately somber music, but there is nothing to do besides stare at the records as they play; even a stress ball equivalent mechanic would have worked here like having a few last things to put in boxes or cleaning the room, but since the son story is told later on, why not have something more meaningful like writing a letter?
I would hate to end this on a negative note, so I’ll say this: If you look at this game as buying a Blu-ray (depending on where you live that may be appropriate) then you’ll get your money’s worth; the story, the writing, the characters, and the narrative exploration of the situation, are all excellent. If you look at it as a game, even a “walking sim” one, you’ll probably think it’s too short, pricey, and with not enough interesting, inherently gamey ideas and mechanics to take advantage of the medium. I agree with both assessments. The game could have taken the concept with an interactivity first approach and have you piece together the story with more engaging mystery elements and mini-games, without loosing any of the fantastic qualities it already has. But, that’s not the game the devs wanted to make; Adios, I feel, was always meant to be that scene from the crime movie we all love where it shows how the Mob lures ordinary people in and uses them to get something done with the knowledge that once they stop being useful or start being moral, there is only one exit for them. Purely taken as an adaptation of that scene, Adios is a great success and I hope more devs will be inspired by it and give their own unique takes, because games can be especially poignant with such themes, as was the case with Adios.