Sunday, May 02, 2010

Indefinite Spaceout

Is a game good because it's insanely difficult, or just annoying? Go and chess are almost impossible, in my case, probably because I find them both abstract and duller than dishwater. If you lose every single time, your inclination will be to harvest a few sour grapes and move along. Whether you rise or sink, you will find your level, and you may decide that your forte more properly lies in high adrenaline junk sports like paintball pinochle or shark wrestling.

Infinite Space begins with a kid's fantasy of unlikely masculine prowess (think Axe commercials), in which an older (but still early 20's) girl gives you your very own spaceship for no even remotely plausible reason (she's a Launcher, and it's her job!?? From each according to her abilities? Is she a Commie or a philanthropist?) and so invites you to inherit the Universe.

Cool. You grab the opportunity and get out of Dodge. What follows is a tediously lengthy, labyrinthine space opera which severely tests the notion of accomplishment plot, since all your goals are blocked by bad guys even after you've levelled up enough to take them out: There's always a trick you know about, but won't connect to the tenuous reality of the game. But the next level is not impossible — after 58 hours of play, I've arrived at Chapter Five, where the absurd difficulty level takes a huge step up.

Apparently, a lot of people don't like this game. Most of the time you're travelling through space and listening to music that got old after the first four minutes. It's still playing. You can't change the tune. You'd chew off your own left arm to change it, but you can't.

On the other hand, great literature must inform as well as entertain, according to all the best Victorian style manuals, so of course Infinite Space does introduce the bright young boy to the mysterious opposite sex and all the ways in which The Direct Approach and The Casually Witty Remark are doomed to fail. Maybe a little like Archie and Veronica, in this regard, although I never delved very deeply into the dewy depths of those slender tomes.

For all that, the anime portrait art is pretty good. You'd like to meet Nia Lochlain yourself, and the minor members of the ensemble, like Torlo, Poplo, Gadina and Valantin (the dude with the MaxiPads™ on his shoulders) are drawn with broad strokes, some depth and some character. A few of my personal favorites, besides Yuri and Nia, are Nadja Musin, Nerissa Roubis, Brava Soneto, Celina Sioufas, and the slob Leo Folias. There are many more.

All the place names, in fact all the proper nouns (so far), are Russian. (Personal names are localized, though.) Go figure. If this game had been designed by a People's Junior Entertainment Commisariat in the old Soviet Union, I'd believe it. Has it got the red C.C.C.P. decal anywhere? Apparently not, but the incongruously square-cornered "battleships," "destroyers," "cruisers" and "aircraft carriers" (and here you must imagine Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, spinning in his grave) look and feel about as clunky as a second-hand Zaporozhets. Nia's unclassifiable custom ship, the Daisy, has a few nice lines. The rest of the fleets look like they were stamped out of tin for Christmas at Western Auto circa 1950.

It should be pointed out that this game has received far more than its share of official hype, and even game-ruining official spoilers, apparently released as carrots to entice the reluctant, the skeptical and the frankly pissed-off to later stages of the game. If Kira turns out to be an android, and Nia Lochlain plans to commit suicide [Wikipedia], I'm not sure I give a damn about the rest of it.

Here's one of the rare walkthroughs. And another.

So what IMHO is a "good, hard game?" Don't sprain yourself, here's a hint:



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The game isn't so bad, really. I am still playing it (Chapter 1, part 2) after 57 hours (that is after Chapter 8). The plot turns out to be engaging, and even the simplistic gameplay ends up providing many possible strategies.

I will admit that the beginning was weak, though.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beginning wasn't very good, but after 26 hours im at the end of chapter 5 and love the game. its not that bad.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Grikdog said...

I finished the game without too much problem. When I played the game+clear, eventually I came back to the place where you have to loop through five planets (without landing) and lure the enemy out to a rendezvous with the rogue stargate... but the same method you used on the clean game doesn't work on the plus game. And no one who's seen it work can believe there's a glitch in the card. They troll-marked three different guys and marked the thread closed. I put the card on a sidewalk and smashed it with a ballpean hammer.

5:29 PM  

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