An oldie but a goodie, Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space by Digital Eel is pushing about seven-and-a-half years as we speak. The sequel to Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, a game I absolutely devoured the first time I ran across it, I’ve been meaning to play Weird Worlds for over half a decade now. But… I kept forgetting. That’s me, really: one moment it’s all Ooh, I should try to find this game, and the next I’m looking at magpies or eating candy or something and the thought gets re-buried in the endless landfill that is my memory.
No longer, though: partly because of news about Digital Eel’s third Infinite game’s Kickstarter succeeding a few months back, and partly because I discovered — on accident — that I’d bought a bundle containing Weird Worlds at some point in the past, I am now all about exploring crazy galaxies.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, hah! Mechanical, medium-to-high.)
As I fiddle around with the video settings in the pre-game launcher — nothing to write home about, though the built-in mod support is nice — I reminisce. I remember Strange Adventures in Infinite Space being pretty out there, if you catch my meaning. I don’t necessarily remember it all too well, though. I wonder: will Weird Worlds be able to match the decade-spanning combination of nostalgia and half-warped memories that make up my attitude towards its older brother?
The opening screen is only tranquil space for a short while: in the span of a few seconds, half a dozen oddly-coloured ships fly in and start shooting at each other. Missiles, laser beams, arcs of lightning, the works. God, this brings back memories. Actual memories. I wonder if Weird Worlds still has that one lightning disc launcher that was basically the best weapon in Strange Adventures?
There’s really nothing to do here but prepare for my first journey into interstellar space. Yes, first journey: I make no illusions regarding my ability to see everything in one trip. To survive everything in one trip, too.
At the space dock, I’m presented with some options. Name for my captain, name for my ship, with randomizers for either if I don’t feel like thinking. I can pick one of three ships: a Science Vessel, a Pirate Corvette or a Terran Frigate. I pick the first one, because obviously. The rest of the options influence in ways large and small the shape of the universe, so I just leave those where they are. I’m not ready to deal with that kind of power just yet.
‘Major Brass’ greets me with a firm handshake. Actually, let me just cut directly to the point: my mission, should I choose to accept it, it to scour the galaxy for stuff. New forms of life if I can hack it, new worlds, new ‘interesting space phenomena’, you name it.
I have twenty years to explore the Prime Sector of space, starting from the Glory system — overselling mankind’s new space home maybe a little bit — and to bring back everything I can find and then some. And when Major Brass says ‘twenty years’, what he really means is that he’d prefer I be back by then, and also that I’m getting a hefty fine if I’m not.
Let’s get to it, to it, to it…
Space. The final… hello.
This… this is not really what I’d pictured space to be like. For one, there’s a lot more information here than I’m comfortable with. What in the devil?
Clicking around the tutorial messages in the lower right provides some information, while rooting through my Strange Adventures memories does the rest. In the top left corner of the screen, I find a little overview of vital information: my name, the current stardate, and buttons representing my cargo hold and my ship. These buttons are both toggles, and they can work in tandem. Here, have the latter one in action:
My ship is made of hardpoints and parts. With a little experimenting, I figure out that different shapes belong to different part types: triangles are weapons, diamonds are thrusters, those weird trapezoid things share a warp drive, and circles are… everything else, I guess.
The popup currently taking up the middle of the screen is the planetary information for the somewhat-overhyped Glory. The three weapon parts on the bottom are actually for sale, which I’m pretty sure I don’t remember from Strange Adventures: I can trade items for ‘Interstellar Credicoins’, because why not? I don’t really have anything to trade but for the weapon my ship came with, though, and the item descriptions do a pretty lousy job of telling me if this Laser Beam is worth trading my Neutronium Thingemajig-Whatever for. I’ll pass for now.
Instead, let’s do what’s always been at the heart of these space games: explore! I mouse over the nearby Jem system, because Jem is exciting etcetera etcetera, and find that it’ll take me 148 days to get there. Let’s see… twenty years equals 7300 days. 7305 if leap years are taken into account, but I can see in the lower right that this is not, in fact, the case. I can also see that fiddling with my equipment already cost me eight precious days. Let’s not waste any more of those, shall we? Away!
I reach the Jem system, and the planetary information screen pops up. The planet I found is called Oasis, and it contains… Gas gardens? I… those could be neat, I guess. I am on a journey of scientific discovery and all that jazz.
Alright, next system. Vesta, what’ve you got for me?
As with the Laser, I have no idea if this gun right here is better or worse than the gun I already have. This gun is priced at two credicoins, though, which spells ‘improvement’ in that universal game-language of ‘you get what you pay for’. Luckily, my ship’s hardpoints are well equipped to handle impossible alien weapons.
Next on the list, the Cestus system contains alien life. The alien Zorg, to be precise, which we saw on the title screen earlier. They kindly, though firmly, ask me to get the hell out of their system. I kindly, but firmly, decline their kind firmess.
Battle is inevitable.
Did I say battle?
Now before you go calling me a coward, I remember Strange Adventures’ battle system. I remember how simple it was, mostly. And swift experimentation reveals that Weird Worlds’ combat isn’t any more complicated: all you can do is move on a two-dimensional plane and point your ship at a target. There’s no fancy tactics, no maneuvering, and really no room for one single plucky space captain to fight an entire alien armada all by himself. Maybe next time.
I tour around some more planets, finding cool new life and cool new items. Here’s an anti-Black Hole-thing! Here are the Klakar, bird-like series long-runners who don’t understand the concept of relative value! Here’s the Tan Ru, terrifying machine beings that I’m quickly fleeing from! Here’s an odd purple-skinned lady thief, who manages to get caught by Lookout Frogs! Here’s a gong that summons fireballs, allowing me to defeat even the toughest opponents in a single stroke! And so on, and so forth.
Against everyone’s expectations, I manage to not die! A little under twenty years after I started, I return to to Glory laden with exotic alien artifacts and technology. And that purple-skinned lady. I’m presented with score, backstory, and a well-deserved first place on the Medium Size Galaxy leaderboard.
Well, that was easy! I honestly don’t know what all the hub-bub was about earlier. Let’s try that again, but with another ship. Maybe the Terran Frigate will spice things up a bit?
Alright… that was bad luck. Pirate Corvette, how do you fare?
Crikey. Back to the Scien-
Alright, alright, I get the point: looks like my fortuitous first run was less amazing skill and more beginner’s luck. Let me see if I can’t go about obtaining some of that amazing skill, though. Be back in a couple of twenty yearses!
Pages: 1 2