Game Review - by James Allen
There has been one fascination that has remained constant throughout the course of man, and that is the final frontier: Canada. No, wait, I mean Space. Since the dawn of time, we have wondered what lies beyond our planet, what creatures may be present in the far reaches of the universe. I know that I have been waiting for a $15 space exploration and combat game to answer these questions, and my prayers have been answered with Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. Cheapass Games is well known for it's line of inexpensive and quick-playing card games, and now they have branched out into computer software. SAIS (it's too long to write out all the time) is a space game that is different every time you play it, and the games last no more than ten minutes maximum. So, will Strange Adventures in Infinite Space satisfy our cravings for a short, cheap space game, or become another piece of space junk?
As I stated in the introductory paragraph, Strange Adventures in Infinite Space (all the cool kids use copy and paste) is short and random (to an extent). Each time you play the game, you can select your starting weapons (two chainguns, a chaingun and a missile, or two lasers), and the difficulty settings (size of slow-moving nebula mass and the number of enemies). Then, your portion of the galaxy is randomly generated, so that each game has a different layout (although it's played the same; more on that later). This is one of the draws of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, as you are not confined by linear plotlines and gameplay. The other draw is, of course, its low, low price of $15. The flipside is that there isn't anything else to do besides play the main game and do a combat simulation between several opposing ships. I found that the short game time sometimes worked to the game's disadvantage, as things would just become interesting when you had to fly back to base before the end of the game. An option to set the length of the game would have alleviated this problem in quick order, and would seem to be easy to implement. Nevertheless, there is no denying that this is a $15 game, and the features show this fact clearly.
The sound in Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is average at best. Almost every action has a different sound effect, from installing parts, meeting alien species, and firing weapons. The problem is that the game plays the same every time, so that you hear the same effects over and over again. I will say, however, that the background music is respectable, fitting the spacey atmosphere of the game very well, with a mix of techno and more techno. The sounds aren't of the high-quality, 3D variety, but they do fit the bill and serve their purpose. There is not much more that you could expect from a game like this.
Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is played thusly: you have a set period of time to explore planets, discover alien species, fight alien species, gather cargo and new weapons, and make it home safely. Most of the game, you will spend your time at the star map, which is an overhead representation of your neck of the galaxy. All the terrain is posted here: black holes (which end your game), nebulas (which you move slowly through), orbiting planets, and species you have discovered. You can also see what type of star each system is, which is an indication of what kind of artifacts you might find. You always start out at Hope, your base of operations. Your first task in every game is to find the planet that the friendly Klakar are orbiting, which is always close to Hope. They are the suckers of the universe, as they will freely trade anything they have to you. It's here that you make most of your ship upgrades.
Each ship has four main systems. The star drive controls movement between systems, and successive upgrades can move your ship quicker through the universe, thus allowing the exploration of more stars before time runs out. Your thrusters are used during combat, along with your shields and weapons. Weapons come in three flavors: missiles, projectiles, and beams. You can also equip your ship with ECM (electronic counter-measures), combat computers, and more. In addition to the ship upgrades, you can also carry any number of things in your cargo hold, from animals to time capsules. These can be used for trade or cashed in at the end of the game.
If there are alien ships present in a star system, you obtain a radar reading displaying the number of ships present, so that you can gauge whether or not to engage them. Some species will want to join your fleet (for a price), but most just want to destroy your petty excuse for a ship. If you do choose to fight the enemy, you are taken to the tactical display. This is the most simplistic combat interface I've seen in quite a long time. It's all point and click: choose a ship to destroy and you'll do it. There is no other interaction besides this (barring choosing to retreat), so you feel out of the loop and not important for most of the battle. This is slightly disappointing, as combat is automated for the most part. There is also not much randomness to the battles, as the superior ships wins most of the time.
The game ends when you return back to Hope after your adventures. Your final score is determined by the level of difficulty, whether you returned before the deadline, and your discoveries. I've found that Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, despite a different galaxy every game, plays the same every time. You meet the same people in the same numbers, just in different locations. You always find the Klakar first, then just pick the most time efficient path around the universe. Unless you find the hyperspace module, you'll cover about a half of the galaxy before returning home, which is dependent on the amount of nebula present. The game is actually dictated by the goods that the Klakar have (which is random every time), and how much you improve your ship influences the game for the most part. Since Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is so short, the fact that every game is basically the same works as a great disadvantage, as you play the same way over and over in ten minute increments. There are a lot of things going for Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, but in the end, the basic repetition of the game works against it.
The graphics are low resolution (640 x 480), and look like they are from a game published five years ago. They obviously do not stack up against the graphical giants of today, but they do hold their own occasionally. The fonts could have been clearer and less blocky, and the pixilated nature of the ships becomes all to clear during close-quarters battle. Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is just not a very pretty game in any respect, although the swirling black holes are somewhat entrancing. The overhead map used in Strange Adventures in Infinite Space can't possibly rival the space graphics seen in Independence War 2, but they seem to be on pace with those found in Battlecruiser Millennium. Coincidence? I think not!
Strange Adventures in Infinite Space definitely has some high points, such as the different map every game and the low price. Nobody will be wowed by the graphics or the sound, and although the maps are random, you end up playing the same basic game every time. Is Strange Adventures in Infinite Space worth your while? Possibly, but since the price is so low, I'd check out the demo and give it a try. Strange Adventures in Infinite Space ends up being a quite average space exploration and adventure game, but it's low price may warrant some more investigation than the ratings indicate.