I typically try to avoid talking too much about myself in game reviews. After all, you're really here to find out if the game is worth your time and money, not to hear about my personal life. But for An Airport for Aliens Currently Run By Dogs, I think I need to explain a little bit about my life to properly convey why I found this game so impactful.
In 2019, shortly after I started seeing my partner, he was offered a job in the US. Being Canadian, the distance between our cities would only be a 2 hour flight - not a huge deal. What I didn't anticipate at that point was just how much time I'd be spending in airports for the next few years. Even though the flight was short, it's international travel - which means getting there three hours early, just in case. It also means pick-ups and drop-offs, and more often than not, flying alone. Airports became a staple of my life, and also a major feature of my relationship.
Airports are often counted among the ranks of liminal spaces - places that are sort of a threshold or a "crossover" space, somewhere you are when you're between concrete places. Spending a lot of time in these places can make you feel like you're out of sync with the world, standing still while time keeps moving for everyone else. Over time though, they can be comfortable too. You learn to carve out your own fun and solace in a place that isn't designed for either. Making up versions of the license plate game, trying to guess where people are coming from or going, and most of all, looking forward to seeing someone you love again, fills the space left between places.
I was surprised, to say the very least, to see all of these feelings reflected back at me when I opened up An Airport for Aliens Currently run by Dogs (otherwise known as Dog Airport Game). Your character, along with you fiancee Krista, are the last two humans left. Despite the end of humanity, Krista is pretty busy with her career, so you meet up with her in airports across the universe to squeeze in visits where you can. Oh yeah, you're not on earth - the airports are clearly designed for aliens, on alien planets, and are entirely run by stock photos of dogs.
The dogs are truly something to behold. From the bug-eyed pugs that sell tickets, to Chad Shakespeare, the radically poetic beagle, to Bribe Dog, a cute shepherd-mix that lives up to their name - they're all amazing and continuously surprising. What they demonstrate to me, more than anything, is what you can accomplish with excellent writing and a strong concept. Because while the stock photos are funny, the schtick would wear thin in minutes if there was nothing backing it up. But the thing that makes this game something really special is its absolutely impeccable writing. It's hilarious and totally absurd - but it's also grounded and rounds out one of my all-time favorite couples in a video game.
Your and Krista's relationship, on paper, makes you seem more like a puppy than a partner. But in the moments when you two are together, your brief but full conversations illustrate a relationship built on trust, comfort, and genuine support for each other - a depiction woefully missing in most media, let alone video games. Even though you're sacrificing for her career, there isn't any resentment or hard feelings - Krista values how you're feeling about everything just as much as you understand why she needs to work so much. Not to mention, you've carved out a fulfilling life for yourself!
When you're not navigating the airport signs written in a (fully translatable!) alien language to head to whichever planet you've agreed to meet on, you've got your own thing going on: petting every dog you meet. You've got infinite hands to pet every dog you encounter and then some, who will reward you with goofy sound effects confirming that they have received your adoration. You're also got your "Pupperdex" to fill out (that is, a list of every NPC) and many of the good boys and girls you meet will need some kind of favor. These range from finding bribe dog a container for his money, enacting spray-paint revenge, or breaking curses. Luckily, you can find everything you need in an airport!
Each airport has a variety of stores with every object of your imagining (and some beyond, you mere mortal). The stores are run by, you guessed it, more dogs for you to get to know. Dogs have no concept of money, so most will just give you the item that you need once you manage to track them down. Some have figured out trade though, and will send you on a fetch quest to track them down something they need first. More than anything this is a good excuse to hoard every item you can find and make sure you speak to every dog you see - just like real life! There is some trekking back and forth between planets, but there's no urgency or requirement to do anything, so it never felt tedious. I just got back around to quests when I was on the planet again, no biggie.
Dog Airport Game is absurd, beautiful, hilarious, and made me cry more than once. Navigating an alien airport ran by dogs is a more perfect metaphor for navigating a relationship than I was expecting. They're both complicated, often hard to gauge from the outside, and full of building-sized coffee (what, just me?), but they're also ultimately incredibly fulfilling and worth the hard work. And that goes for the little relationships, like helping a stranger out in an airport, and the big ones, like with the person you're marrying. And while you could definitely say I'm reading a little far into it, I'd say: go check it out for yourself. Don't rush. Take your time to explore, talk to people (dogs), and enjoy your stay in a liminal space that feels just as alien as the rest.
An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs is available on Steam for PC and on Xbox Series X|S.