I stumbled across Strange Adventures in Infinite Space (SAIS) almost by accident last year whilst hunting for a simple distraction that I could reward myself with inbetween bouts of working. I was tired of the tedium of card games and disappointed with every single shoot-em-up I tried for one reason or another.
The Digital Eel website promised much from SAIS. It claimed to be original. It claimed to be fun. It claimed to last a mere 10 minutes or so. In short, it couldn’t have sounded more interesting. It was a tiny download, and a painless install.
SAIS is essentially a 10-minute exploration of the galaxy, and has a unique blend of boardgame strategy with realtime space dogfights. You’ve got to make it round the galaxy and visit as many planets as possible, plunder them of riches, and defeat any angry aliens that get in the way.
Many of the things you pick up are useful equipment and can be bolted on to your ship to help you explore the galaxy more efficiently, or give you a greater edge in combat. Many of the items have hidden or unexpected powers. Much of the fun in the game comes from discovering them and finding out what they do. Sometimes it can take quite some time to figure out what something does.
The ultimate aim of the game is to return home before your time is up, and sell your loot to score points and achieve status amongst your peers.
Right from the very beginning, SAIS is an aural and visual treat. The 2D graphics have a beautiful, unique style to them, and convey the game to you simply and attractively. It takes all of 2 minutes to forget all the advances in 3D technology and become immersed.
The sound effects and little loops are funny, catchy, clever, and cool. Everything that needs a sound has a sound, and they gel together perfectly. In fact this may be one of the few games where I’ve been more impressed by the sound than the graphics.
But riding on the audio-visuals is the most addictive game since NetHack.
After you’ve played a few times and got the hang of what you’re doing, it is very, very difficult to not just have “one more go”. The trouble is, the games only take a few minutes, so you always figure on having a little bit of time left for another one. My small distraction turned into a big distraction. I suspect I’ve spent more time playing SAIS than I spent playing the original Doom now if I added it all up. This is why SAIS represents such excellent value for money.
If SAIS is so addictive because it’s fun and short, the excellent replay value comes because it’s so varied. Every game is random, and every game is completely different. There are only a finite number of things in the game, and not all of them appear in every game, but they can interact in some surprising and usually amusing ways. The clever mix of strategy and realtime dogfighting keeps the action fast-paced and interesting too.
And even now, a year after I first played SAIS, I still have the odd go when I’m trying to avoid work.
There are now some mods available for free for SAIS which add new artifacts and gameplay and have extended its life even more.
- Small installation
- Incredibly addictive
- Great replay value with highly varied gameplay
- Good fun delivered in nice short bites
- Nice graphics, great sound
- Incredibly addictive 🙂
- Now superceded by Weird Worlds (more on that later)
- In fact, I can’t really think of any cons