As someone who has plenty of fond memories of watching classic science fiction, I’m always perplexed at the lack of video games that take advantage of the genre. Yes, I know that the term “classic sci-fi” covers entities such as Star Wars and Alien, who have been well represented in the world of gaming. However, I’m talking more about the B-movie classics that felt at home on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Outside of the defunct Destroy All Humans franchise, I’m not sure that I can think of any title that has the same feel. Perhaps this is what drew Fabrizio Zagaglia (AKA Z4G0) to create and develop Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space, which comes to consoles after a 2014 Steam release.
Having been influenced by pulpy 1960s sci-fi, Albedo is your classic alien invasion tale. Players step into the shoes of one John T. Longy, who is the night-watchman at the secret research facility known as JUPITER. During one of his regular night shifts, one where he happens to be drunk, Longy’s night is interrupted by a massive explosion. Upon waking up in the basement of the facility, he first notices the massive hole in the ceiling, followed shortly by the mysterious aliens now roaming the location. Although focused on escaping from this nightmare, our hero eventually works to figure out just who these beings are, and why they chose JUPITER, of all places, to come to.
Although Albedo certainly borrows tropes from classic sci-fi works, there’s really not enough story here to reel you in. For a vast majority of the game, you are basically left alone as Longy spouts some of the worst dialogue I have heard in recent memory. It is terrible in both writing and performance, though, so at least it has that going for it. Truthfully, it’s all quite annoying, because there is a decent thread Z4G0 could have expanded upon, which I won’t spoil here, but it comes so late in the game that it never gets explained outside of an exposition dump. It’s disappointing, to say the least.
While its plot is (supposedly) drawing from something old, the gameplay of Albedo takes inspiration from more modern works. For the majority of the experience, the title is a puzzle-heavy adventure, which is more in line with classic LucasArts games than typical first-person adventures. In fact, the puzzles here often feel like direct descendants of the absurd riddles found in the likes of Grim Fandango or Day of the Tentacle. Essentially, every room you enter is littered with objects that will either be used in the room in order to devise an escape method, or must be held onto in order to be used in a future room.
Unfortunately, since a majority of the puzzles found in the game are logic-heavy, they tend to be either simple or exasperating. For example, one room calls for you to repair a flashlight-adorned helmet that can be used to explore the sewers. In order to do this, you’ll need to unscrew the latch on the back of the helmet, and then replace the dead battery with another battery you picked-up earlier. However, for your MacGyver solution to fully work, you’ll need to disassemble a pen you hopefully picked up previously, in order to use the spring in the pen to hook everything together. This puzzle straddles the line between fun and irritating, but most of the puzzles tend to fall into one camp or the other.
It doesn’t help that the muddled and dark graphics make it tough to even locate every common household appliance needed to advance. And, no, hearing Longy state, “I see something” when you’re stuck on a puzzle does not alleviate the issues regarding item location and logic defying solutions. Of course, it’s always tough to come up with unique challenges in these games, because it can be difficult to judge what makes a puzzle good and what makes it nonsensical. The classic LucasArts games were able to circumvent this issue by having stellar writing. Albedo barely has the plotting to justify a simple arithmetic problem, let alone the riddles it presents.
Not content with just enemies of logic, Z4G0 also forces Longy to deal with the alien menace directly. Using some of the items you pick up over the course of the game (hammer, shears), as well as a late-game shotgun, you’ll have to fend off several giant eyeball-sporting creatures. While bashing a tentacle monster’s one giant eye with a hammer should be satisfying, the hand-to-hand combat is anything but. There’s little impact to any of the damage you deal, even if you are knocking down a solid brick wall. Every attack and strike you throw feels floaty and weak, like a small child attempting to throw a balloon.
If the atrocious attacks weren’t already bad enough, the aiming is consistently terrible. It often felt like Longy had the depth perception of a one-eyed man, as there were times where I thought I was going to hit something, only to see myself whiff on the attempt. Troublesome aiming also shows up outside of combat, as attempted interactions with objects often turn into comical walking exercises. Things do pick-up once you acquire the shotgun, as shooting something feels infinitely more satisfying than the sissiest strikes ever thrown. However, it shows up a little too late to sway my opinion that the combat is completely broken.
Still, for a title that has been developed by one man, Albedo is a surprisingly attractive game. As mentioned before, things can be a tad too dark at times, specifically during the opening and one section that takes place outside. When you are in an area that is brightly illuminated, though, the title sports a good amount of color and personality. I do wish its performance was a tad better, though, as I noticed some frustrating lag at points during the campaign, and being able to walk through certain objects, but getting caught on others is almost unforgivable.
Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space is largely disappointing because there was a lot of promise to be had with its premise. I think the B-movie vein is one worthy of tapping, and with interesting aliens and a puzzle-heavy approach, I figured this would be a worthy challenge. Instead, all I received was a plot that is barely worth mentioning, sloppy combat and riddles that are either too easy or logic defying. I know this was the debut effort from a single person, but when you can find other titles in the genre that offer better puzzles (Talos Principle), stronger narratives (Gone Home) and more robust combat (any FPS you can think of), it’s hard to ignore these faults.
This review was based off the Xbox One version of the title, which we were provided with.
There's a promising idea at the core of Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space, but this potential is unfulfilled thanks to logic breaking puzzles, clumsy combat and a plot that doesn't live up to the B-movies it tries to ape.