Strange Adventures in Infinite Space (PC) Able to leap light years in a single sitting.
By - Tom Chick
The lunch break strategy game is a rare breed, unless you're lucky enough to have a job with an all-day lunch break. While many action and puzzle games are played just fine in fifteen-minute bursts, strategy games skew their scales epic, often spanning hours. Even real-time strategy games have a way of lasting longer than you'd expect. Unless someone pulls off an early rush, a typical RTS can go two hours without breaking a sweat. So what's the strategy gamer pressed for time to do?
How about Digital Eel's Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, a charming little game that takes less time to play than it does to say its name? This no-nonsense space exploration game is like a science fiction version of Indiana Jones' and Yoda's Desktop Adventures, LucasArts' experiments in fifteen-minute games. You can start a game, play through it, and get your score on the board in less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee.
You start by choosing the difficulty level and christening your captain and his ship. Your new unexplored galaxy fits on a single screen, with purple nebula splattered Rorschach style across the map. You have ten years to fly from star to star, discovering planets, aliens, and treasures. Bring the loot home to tally your score and you're done, having crossed vast gulfs in a mere handful of mouse clicks. Strange Adventures keeps track of your twenty top scores. In a nod to Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, you're also evaluated in terms of what career you'll have after you return. Will you end up a notorious bounty hunter or a lowly nerf herder? Will you be a stand up comedian or a covert Galacticorp spy?
If you're killed in combat, pass too close to a black hole, or get caught in the blast of a nova, your brief career is even briefer and your score is halved. If you go over the time limit, there's a significant penalty applied to your score. In fact, if you're not careful to give yourself plenty of time to get home, it's easy to rack up scores thousands of points in the negative. Oddly enough, this could lead to situations in which dying on the other end of the galaxy is preferable to taking the penalty for getting home late. Sometimes the late captain (your name here) is better off than Captain (your name here) late.
Assuming you can work your way around the nebula, which slows travel considerably, the time limit and your ship's default engines will allow you to visit about half the galaxy's stars. To fully cover the map, you'll need to discover or barter for faster engines. Most engines are just faster, but some have special abilities. The Hyperdrive moves you instantaneously, but requires 60 days to charge. The Nebular Sled Drive lets you fly through nebulae without being slowed. Unless you get one of these goodies under the hood of your spaceship, you're not going to get very far. In fact, it becomes apparent early on whether you'll get your name on the scoreboard. The real suspense comes when you know you're on a lucrative expedition and you have to make hard choices about which risks to take and which ones to avoid.