Strange Adventures in Infinite Space
Review by Old
"Explore the Galaxy in Twenty Minutes or Less!"
This rather peculiar-sounding claim is touted by a small (three
guys working part-time) developer and a publisher of admittedly
inexpensive titlesCheapass Games. Employing a session playing
time of 5 to 20 minutes, Strange Adventures (SAIS, for
short) suggests, with the vocabulary and subtle humor evident throughout
play, that you can: "Sail the high seas of stars in your own
deep space exploration vessel. Explore exotic star systems, seek
out new technologies, artifacts and lifeforms; boldly blow up stuff
where no one has blown up stuff before!"
On the surface, SAIS looks and acts like a poor man's version
of Masters of Orion or Star Control 2. It's a
turn-based strategy game, emphasizing exploration, with battles
settled in real-time. It's solo, not multiplay, with variable difficulty
settings and infinite replayability by using random map generation.
Available for your enjoyment are 21 different ship types; 69 different
weapons, shields, and artifacts; 18 alien lifeforms; 17 different
planet and star types; and 7 unique alien races. SAIS plays
on a PII 350, uses only 16 MB of hard drive space, and
costs only $15. This may sound like a "no-brainer" kind
of deal for gamers with this kind of genre disposition. Yet, all
is not perfect, and I do have some hesitance in giving an unqualified
recommendation. Let's explore that a bit.
"An Intriguing and Dangerous Proposition"
The premise for SAIS goes like this (all in text in the
game; no vocals): "Despite your erratic record as a pilot,
Lextor Mucron has offered you a scheme so potentially lucrative
it could set you up for life! It's a long shot. It's risky and unlawful.
But, you find the idea of adventuring for profit irresistible. He
rents you a military corvette and crew. Upon your return, the costs
of the mission will be weighed against any discoveries you bring
Given this charge, your challenge, in 10 game years (which may
last all of 20 minutes), is to visit planets, find all the good
stuff you can, and get back with enough points to pay back your
initial loan and have a bit left over. There is no carryover from
mission to mission in that each brief game is self-contained. Points
are awarded at the end, and a running tally kept, so you can compare
your score against your own or others. For the first few missions,
you will likely get the failure message, "Your career as an
adventurer in Infinite Space is at an end," or the "can't
pay back your loan" greeting, "Mucron seizes everything
you own and you assume a new lifestyle as a robot maintenance worker,
a position more appropriate to your status and wealth!"
Along the way, matters can become interesting. There are random
encounters with peculiar aliens (peculiar to humans, that is) who
may offer a trade (often without a lot of obvious logic as to comparative
values), offer to ally with you in your travels, or desire a battle.
In the case of a fight (assuming you don't retreat, which is an
option), a point-and-click, Asteroids kind of exercise ensues,
the outcome of which is dependent on the relative outfitting of
your vessel, allies if present, a bit of tactics, and the power
and numbers of the enemy. Essentially, that's "all" there
is to the game, with some variations, ship and equipment modifications,
alien contact and planet discovery options.
Graphics are clear and serviceable, not inclined to tax your system's
abilities. Sound effects are adequate, and the music is pleasant.
Speech is absent.
"Hope Is a Shining Pearl in the Blackness of Space"
SAIS, to be really involving and enjoyable, needs to depend
on your imagination. The dated graphics won't do it for you. The
authors have contributed to that prospect by creating text, messages,
statements that are articulate and often tongue-in-cheek funny.
"Hope" is your home planet, from the system "Glory."
Alien races to be met in your travels include the Muktians, who
are fickle and cautious; the Garthans, who are aggressive and brutal;
and the Tan Ru, who are oblivious to biological life! However, it
was during one of my early encounters that I began to smile and
appreciate the writing and humor. After doing quite nicely in exploring,
I came upon the Urluquai"large luminescent hemispherical
floaters who feed on fear and death, with a demeanor that is malevolent
and thoroughly evil!" However, I didn't take this manual description
seriously, since I was greeted with this: "We call to you with
songs of praise and peace. We are buoyantly trembling with the anticipation
of our happy congress (oh, my). In a play of colors we will dance
joyfully." Needless to say, the resultant congress produced
utter destruction for my ship and allies.
In summary, my 15 hours or so with SAIS went something like
this. Initially, I thought it was likely a shallow little game,
almost of a shareware type, about 10 to 15 years out of dategraphically,
sonically, and gameplay-wise. After a bit, I began to appreciate
the brief bouts of fun and varietydepth, reallypresent
in the play, and found myself smiling (a relative rarity) and often
fooling with it between lengthy sessions of Warcraft III
Finally, I backed off a bit, not to the initial shallow impression,
but rather to a more balanced view, I think. If you take SAIS
for what it is, a little time-waster with funny and interesting
twists, and don't think of it as the second coming of Privateer
or complex space strategy, you may well find it enjoyable, kind
of inventive/creative, and well worth 16 MB of your hard drive
What I Like Most About the Game
- Economicalas to purchase cost, required hard disk space,
and playing time.
- VariabilityWith random maps and many items/creatures,
no two games seem quite alike.
- CombatThe real-time encounters are fun to watch, even
with little control.
What I Like Least About the Game
- SamenessIn spite of variety, there's a sameness within
the framework that can become predictable.
- Length"Coffee break" games are nice, but one
does wish for the option to build and move up levels.
- StrategyFeedback (or lack of) is such that you often seem
dependent more on luck than skill.
Release Date: March 2002
Four Fat Chicks Links
PII 350 (PIII 600 recommended)
32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended)
16 MB free hard disk space
Where to Find It