Adios is a remarkably uncomplicated game in scope. 90 minutes of conversation and inhabiting a space as a gangster tries to convince the farmer not to give up working for the mob.
Created by Mischief and released on 17th March 2021, Adios is within the scope of what I’ve been prone to refer to as an Interactive Drama. (Though others might use the term “walking simulator”.) A self contained, tightly scoped narrative with a clearly defined thematic focus.
Adios is aiming for a small scale experience. One specific day in the life of The Farmer. He’s been happy to work in “waste disposal” for the mob. Until today.
And so The Man has come down to convince him that would be a bad idea. That’s it. The Farmer will go through his daily routine, the Man will try to convince him that he’s making a bad decision.
But Adios isn’t necessarily interested in choice. Not in the broad player driven sense. The actions of the characters taken before the game have led to this point. They really couldn’t lead anywhere else. What Adios accomplishes is instead dealing in the small moments that make up this larger one. The Farmer is set in his larger actions. But the player inhabits him, seeing his emotions, getting at his reasoning for making his choice. Adios is about conveying that the why of the choice made is important, not what the choice should be.
So it’s simple. The Farmer tends his animals, manages his farm. He talks to the Man as he does so, getting him to help out with a few simple tasks. Each of these will be accomplished in a simple, mini-game like manner. Other than that, the primary interaction of the game is in the dialogue. As the conversations go on, The Farmer will be given the chance to flesh out his reasoning. The player will choose a dialogue option and then see how that plays out.
Except when you can’t. Adios uses one of my favourite tricks of dialogue focussed games, using the fact the player is occupying the space of the Farmer to showcase his interior thoughts.
Faded out options that show you what The Farmer wants to say but can’t. You can of course try. But all that will come out is a single grunt. It’s perfect. The Farmer is by no means a stupid or illiterate person. The monologues and explanations he launches into as he tries to explain his choice and beliefs to The Man are erudite and thoughtful. But he’s a man trapped by his situation and his feelings. Something the creative team have communicated wonderfully.
With the dialogue as such a focus, it’s a good thing that the voice acting is phenomenal. The Farmer (Voiced by Rick Zieff) has a cadence and lilt that draws you in to whatever he’s talking about. It’s spellbinding, lulling you into a nodding stupor before he delivers a heartbreaking line The Man (voiced by D.C Douglass) has a luxurious, disaffected tone. He’s clearly got some interest in what’s going on with The Farmer, and genuinely wants him to reconsider the choice, but he knows what’s going to happen if The Farmer makes this choice.
It’s par for the course with the genre, but Adios is definitely written to take full advantage of cinematic genre conventions and language. Anyone who’s absorbed Gangster Tropes from any source in the last twenty years has a pretty good idea of how things will be playing out from the beginning. More than that though, the game wants to make full use of that, trading heavily in cinematic language.
After a short introductory sequence plays out, the game mostly comprises meandering between sections of the farm, passing from Scene to Scene. While there’s some minor worldbuilding to enjoy in the exploring, the meat of the game is these scenes. Each is established with a subtitle, while the camera cuts and shifts to frame each event in a specific way that suits what’s happening. Beyond that, as each scene reaches a denouement, the camera sharply cuts again. Time moves forward, the day progresses towards it’s inevitable end. It’s a good tool, deployed well. It also allows for a repeatable scene select in the game which allows for some freedom to return and explore other dialogue responses, which was something I welcomed after the game’s short first run time.
The freedom to wander between the scenes was refreshing as well. It gave time to chew over the events of each scene while letting the faintly cel-shaded, heavily outlined art direction wash over me. Beyond that, you decide how the day progresses. Is The Farmer in a rush to be done? Does he enjoy or wallow in the silent loneliness of his surroundings?
My one major gripe is a particularly gamified system towards the end of the game that unfortunately grated on me. The final scene has a slow, forboding deliberateness to it. In silence, a set of specific, drawn out actions are undertaken to provide a conclusion for the day’s events. I loved it from the moment I saw the prompts for what I needed to do.
Except that the crafted tone is somewhat undermined by the object interaction method for the game being physics based. And so in the midst of a supposedly thoughtful scene, I was chasing physics objects round a room and trying to work out where something had vanished to. It’s by no means a dealbreaker, but one of those unfortunate instances games have where the freedom granted undermines the intended effect.
But by the end of the game, only a few minutes later, that had been forgotten as I chewed over the ending while appreciating the credits rolling. Adios is theatrical and cinematic in a way that brings to mind short films condensing a narrative down, while still (for better or worse) making the most of the structural freedom afforded to it as a game to tell an effective story through mechanics. The voice acting in particular elevates the game into something that definitely should be experienced.