Video games are not only a great escape from everyday life, they can inspire and educate. Away: The Survival Series puts players in control of a sugar glider, which is basically a smaller version of a flying squirrel if you never heard of a sugar glider before, and provides insight on how these unique creatures live. You might be able to find a YouTube clip or a National Geographic article about these marsupials but the magic of video games provides a different way to experience the life of a sugar glider… that is, if the game wasn’t completely broken.
I’ve played some janky games before but this might be the most incomplete feeling game I’ve played in 2021. This is a mega bummer because you can see where the developers were going and with another 6 months of development time, it could have been something special. Instead, players will fight the camera and staged actions, like jumping and gliding in dramatic set pieces, more than the incoherent snakes, spiders, and bugs that are out to kill you. And for a game about a flying mouse, there are surprisingly few opportunities to float around the environment. The hunger and stamina meters also hinder gameplay and don’t make the game more fun.
The number of issues is so long it would be impossible to list them all but there are a few main ones that really make playing the game a struggle. First is the combat. There is an option to lock onto a target by holding the trigger button and pressing O but then the camera can freak out and get stuck on the environment. Good luck fighting butterflies, for example, as the camera skyrockets into the air. Speaking of fighting, there is no indicator that the player is doing any damage. When fighting the snake that blocks the path, I wasn’t even sure I was doing any damage until it eventually fell over and I was able to pass. There is no red flash, no noise, no health meter, nothing.
For the most part, the quest is a linear experience but with some opportunities to venture off the path to find berries or enemies to eat. One time I found a cave, thinking it would reward me with something, only to have my game reset to a save point from 10 minutes prior for no reason. Not even sure how something like this could happen but here we are.
There are times when the player needs to do the task the game wants you to do, like glide away from a predator to create a cinematic experience. What should be a cool, fun 20 seconds of gameplay wind up being nothing but frustration when you can’t do the thing you need to do, like gliding to that ledge or landing on that log, due to loose and inaccurate controls. One time I got stuck on the environment and I eventually died, only to have the game respawn me in an inescapable starting point. My save file said I was 37% done when I encountered this glitch and didn’t have the will to start over.
It is a shame that the game was released in such a poor state because the foundation is there. You can see where the devs wanted to go but they probably ran out of development money, time, or both. Unfortunately, I’ve played more fun and more complete games in Steam Early Access than this mess. I guess I will just go watch some National Geographic instead.
Also available on PC and PS5.