Adios Review: The Most Charming Euthanization Of A Lonely Old Man
Most people don’t have the pleasure of choosing exactly when and how they will die. Even fewer get to spend the day palling around with their killer. This is the setup for Adios, an hour-long piece of interactive theater about a pig farmer that no longer wants to get rid of bodies for the mob. At the start, I couldn’t imagine a more dreadful experience than consorting with death itself, but Adios subverted the expectation by giving the power to the victim, not the killer. The farmer runs towards death, not away from it, and while it’s certainly a melancholic story, it’s also one of dignity and compassion. The presentation isn’t flawless, but Adios demonstrates some of the best writing that gaming has to offer.
Adios isn’t really a story that unfolds, but rather a life that becomes unpacked. You know everything that is going to happen right at the start: the farmer tells the mobster that he isn’t going to dispose of bodies anymore, knowing this means he’ll be killed. The mobster is reluctant to lose the farmer’s service and asks to spend the day together so that he might be able to convince him to continue their business together. As the farmer and his killer tour the farm doing chores, playing yard games, and conversing, it becomes clear to the killer that the farmer’s motivations are rather difficult to overcome. The farmer doesn’t try to convince the mobster not to kill him, but rather why he should.
What’s so fascinating about Adios is the way the power dynamic shifts back and forth between these two men despite knowing from the very start that one is ultimately going to kill the other. At times they reminisce like old friends that know each other intimately. In other scenes, particularly towards the end, the farmer casts his killer as a sort of religious authority to whom he confesses his sins. One of the profound scenes revolves around the farmer’s prized chestnut tree, which he asks the mobster to protect when he’s gone. In this and several other moments, it feels like the farmer is talking to a loved one on his deathbed, rather than the person that will be directly responsible for his death.
The killer is not without compassion, and his interest in the farmer clearly goes beyond business. On two occasions he suggests getting the farmer off the farm and into a nice place in the city where he won’t feel so lonely. The appeal doesn’t make any sense, considering the farmer can only serve his purpose to the mob on the farm. He practically begs the farmer not to quit, not so he won’t have to kill him, but so the farmer won’t have to die. It’s hard to say that the two ever come to an agreement. In the end, both men do what they have to do, but there’s definitely a sense of mutual respect between them. Adios is a deeply personal story about a man that decides to die with dignity and purpose, but it’s also an exploration of an incredibly nuanced and peculiar friendship.
Interactive theater is probably the best description for Adios. For the first half of Adios, you can choose what order to watch each scene. There are a few scenes that include mini-games to play while you listen to the two men chat, though it’s otherwise much closer to a movie than a game. Frankly, I’m torn over the medium of choice for Adios. The voice performances are incredible and the writing is award-worthy, but I’m just not sure how much it being a game serves the story over it being something else, like a short film or a podcast.
I never really got much of a sense of being the farmer because it’s such a scripted, linear experience. The closest Adios comes to delivering an immersive experience is right at the end after the mobster leaves and you’re left alone to take in the farm one last time and say your goodbyes. There’s a brief moment where you are taking a quiet walk through a wooded area on the farm that feels like a moment of reflection for you and the character, but unfortunately, the moment was ruined by a rogue tire flying through the air in the background.
That wasn’t the only time that the medium actually hurt the presentation. There’s a scene where the two milk goats together, and as soon as the mobster touched his goat it flew through the air and landed on the farmer’s head. These kinds of bugs can be fixed of course, but for a purely story-based experience like Adios, even the smallest bug is a huge detractor from the experience. It was enough to make me wonder whether Adios should have been a game at all. I also found the visual style really inconsistent. Most of the surfaces and objects have a cell-shaded quality with thick, heavy lines and flat, comic book-style art, but the character models and some of the objects, like the vintage car, are just generic 3D models. I’m not sure what the artistic choice was here, but it doesn’t really work for me.
One thing that Adios does that would only work in a game is the way it handles the dialogue tree. Early one you’re given several dialogue options that add a small sense of player agency, but don’t impact the story in any meaningful way. Later on, however, you’re given dialogue choices, but you can only pick one option. The other choices are things that the farmer is thinking, things he wishes he could say, but he doesn’t. I’ve never seen this take on dialogue options before, and I thought it was an exceptionally clever way to provide insight into the character’s mind.
Adios is the kind of contemplative experience that will stick with me for a long time. While I think Adios is a much better story than it is a game, I’m fully convinced this is a great proof of concept for bigger stories in the interactive theater genre. Adios could have been a one-dimensional story about a man who has nothing left to live for, but through a series of short, concise conversations, the game does an exceptional job of fleshing out this character, humanizing him, and giving meaning to his death. That’s a lot to do in just an hour, but Adios handles it beautifully.
A PC code was provided to TheGamer for this review. Adios is available now on PC and Xbox.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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