Strange Adventures in Infinite Space is an tongue-in-cheek indie game in the vein of Star Control and Starflight. You travel around a large galaxy, meet alien species, discover powerful artifacts, etc. The thing that sets it apart, though, is that playing through the whole game lasts roughly 5-15 minutes.
Much like some other titles, SAIIS distills the gameplay of the games that inspired it and streamlines the overall experience. This shortened and simplified approach might seem a bit off-putting at first, but the fast, score-based playthroughs can quickly become addictive.
The important parts:
- Each playthrough of the game is entirely randomized. The layout of the galaxy’s nebulae, star systems, black holes, etc. is different every time, as are the various alien encounters and artifact locations.
- Play sessions are limited to 10 in-game years. You’re completely free to travel around the galaxy during this period, but you must return to the home-system before the 10 years are up (or face a score-penalty).
- When starting a new game, the selectable galaxy size and enemy encounter ratios will affect your final score.
- Aside from the black holes, encounters only take place when a star system is visited. These events happen just a single time — unless they’re an alien encounter that’s initially avoided — and are accompanied by unique jingles. Each star system is also guaranteed to yield an encounter of some sort, and exploring them is a major element of the game.
- Visiting a star system leaves behind a rotating globe that indicates it’s been previously explored. If any aliens were encountered in the system (without being destroyed), their ships also end up encircling the system.
- The UI is somewhat minimal, but it does a great job of showing all vital information. The galaxy map occupies most of the screen, but it’s purely two-dimensional and doesn’t require zooming or scrolling. Another window represents your ship (and any companions that can be tabbed through using their icons), and it’s joined by a cargo list and a general description window. Any additional information is conveyed via pop-ups.
- It’s pretty much a guarantee that one of the systems closest to your starting location is occupied by the Klakar traders. The items they offer are random, but they’re usually an improvement over your starting equipment. The Klakar are also not the savviest negotiators, and will accept any proposed one-for-one trade.
- Once encountered, you can summon a Klakar tradesman at any point in the game. Aside from providing an instantly accessible store, the Klakar can also be called on during combat, but — unless their ship is destroyed — they will expect payment after the battle is finished.
- Throughout the course of the game, various randomly encountered aliens can join your small fleet. Some of them are mercenaries that need to be compensated with an item, while others are simply stranded and ask to be escorted to other aliens of their kind.
- SAIIS has a definite gambling vibe — there is no saving and loading, and the game records your score whether you finish the game or die trying (which can also result in a negative score). Throughout each playthrough, you’re also constantly faced with risky choices: exploring unknown planets, engaging unidentified aliens, skimming past black holes, etc.
- Artifacts provide a points bonus, but can also help in other areas of gameplay, e.g., a missile guidance disruptor makes your ship harder to hit, while a scanning device lets you peak in on unexplored star systems.
- Traveling through nebulae takes much longer than empty space, and it’s generally not a good idea to do this unless you’ve heavily upgraded your ship’s drive.
- Aside from travelling, time is also required to repair parts of your ship and chase down alien lifeforms once their home planets are visited.
- Combat is largely automatic and includes a pause, play and fast-forward button. It’s still relatively engaging, though, as it’s based on your equipment — shields, propulsion system, and short, medium and long range weapons with various attack properties — and the equipment of your allies and enemies. Maneuvering your ship is manual, though, and numerous artifacts can also be employed at any time during the battle.
- The combat screen displays all ships without the need to scroll. As ships are eliminated, the view zooms in so that only the active ships are contained within. This adds dramatic effect by closing in on the action as the fights progress.
- Once your adventure comes to an end, you’re automatically taken to the title screen that displays a scoreboard. This is particularly clever as it instantly shows how you did in your various playthroughs, and encourages you to try again to beat your top scores.