Review: Adios (Xbox One)

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Plenty of games dive head-first into the eternal question about the meaning of life. Plenty of games tell stories about redemption, about what people will do to clear a guilty conscience. But I’ve never played anything that explores these themes quite like Adios; it turns out that a short-form story about a farmer’s last day on earth, and all the mundanity and introspection that comes with that, is an excellent place for a grounded, thoughtful take on some of life’s biggest questions.

Related: Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a poignant exploration of grief, and the power of writing to help make sense of a world turned upside down.

In Adios, you play as a pig farmer who’s decided enough is enough. A decades-long relationship with the mob who used his farm for body disposal weighs heavily on his conscience, and he’s decided he needs to do what he can to make things right, even if that comes with the consequences of trying to leave a partnership where there’s only one way out. When your old business partner—and, really, your only friend—turns up to try to convince you to change your mind, a simple journey around the farm becomes a window into some profound reflection on the life you’re about to leave behind.

A screenshot from Adios on Xbox One.

Make breakfast. Feed the horse. Milk the goats. Shovel pig shit. It’s a day of monotonous, mundane tasks; the immovable routine of life on a farm. But there’s comfort in routine, especially given the solemn circumstances. The horse, the goats, the farm itself all have history and significance, and there’s nothing quite like the expectation that you won’t see tomorrow to inspire some introspection on the role all these things have played in your life.

But this “life in the day of a pig farmer” isn’t just a personal reflection; it’s also how Adios explores the relationship between you and your mobster friend. As you show him the ropes, the two of you talk—about how you met, about the good old times and the bad, about whether there’s anything he can do to change your mind, about why you have to go through with this despite the inevitable consequence. Through these exchanges, Adios pieces together a story about a man took what seemed like the option he could see in a desperate situation, who’s spent the rest of his life living with the consequences of that decision, and who’s finally ready to choose to take the other, more difficult path—not to fix what can’t be fixed, but to at least find something akin to redemption.

A screenshot from Adios on Xbox One.

What that redemption looks like, nobody knows. Adios isn’t interested in closure or some marks of whether you’ve been “successful” in your aims, because when it comes to trying to make up for a life of being complicit in other people’s grief, that’s not something you can ever really check off as “complete”. You do what you can with the time you have left to make amends, you pray to whatever gods you believe in—or those you don’t, just in case—and hope for a best that you’ll probably never get to see.

Adios isn’t a story about someone who finds out they have cancer and then goes on a globetrotting bucket list adventure, or a tale of some catastrophic incident that sparks some existential musings. Even the mob element is played low-key, alluded to but almost never actually talked about within the game. In this, its approach to the whole “question of life” thing is grounded and authentic in a way that few games manage to achieve. To find humanity in extraordinary circumstances is one thing; to find it in something as ordinary as going through your daily routine one last time is, somewhat paradoxically, a much trickier thing—and one that Adios does incredibly well.

A screenshot from Adios on Xbox One.

Don’t take from this that Adios is “an interesting story set against a dull backdrop”, or anything like that. The mundanity of the setting and the rote interactions the game asks of you are a fundamental part of the mood that the whole game conjures up, working in concert with the script and the excellent voice performances to drive home this melancholy, reflective theme. They act simple, repetitive action of taking ingredients out of the fridge, chopping them up, and putting them in a pot isn’t particularly engaging on a purely mechanical level, but in the context of everything else and the knowledge that you’re almost certainly cooking your last meal, those rote actions carry weight and leave an impact.

That said, the impact gets lost somewhat in the comical side effects of the way Adios handles physics. The rubbery nature of the game objects and your character’s odd tendency to fling things at high speed means you can’t really just pick something up and put it down again; if you want to get that steak onto the chopping board, you have to take aim and throw it into place, lest it just bounce off the kitchen bench onto the floor. This creates moments of comical absurdity, the kind of thing you’d expect to see in Surgeon Simulator or Overcooked, but certainly not in something as serious and thoughtful as Adios. Fortunately, those moments are short-lived and infrequent, but they’re still a jarring, unexpected shift in tone that the rest of the game works so hard to establish.

A screenshot from Adios on Xbox One.

It takes just a couple of hours to play through Adios, but it’s an experience that’ll sit with you for far longer. It’s a haunting story about redemption and finding meaning in life, but one that eschews the bombast with which videogames typically approach such themes in favour of something far more grounded—and far more impactful, as a result. Going through your daily routine one last time, when you know you’re not going to see the sun rise the next morning, can be a powerful source of reflection, and Adios does an impressive job of capturing that.

Score: 4.5 stars

Adios is developed and published by Mischief. It’s available now for Xbox One (reviewed) and PC.

A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.

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About Author

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.