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     " It will give you something to do during commercial breaks that won't actually overlap into that Babylon 5 rerun you're watching. "

      Title: Strange Adventures in Infinite Space by Cheapass Games & Digital Eel

      Format: Windows Video Diversion

      Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong

      The Hype: "Explore the Galaxy… in twenty minutes or less!" is the tagline for this time killer by Cheapass Games; masters of the inexpensive innovation. Hop in your space corvette and fire up the photon torpedoes--we're hoping to boldly go where no one has gone before. But if the Force isn't with us, this could be a close encounter of the turd kind.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The graphics for Strange Adventures are pleasant but simple, rendered 2D in a fairly classic computer game style familiar to most of us from about a decade ago. While this may be disappointing to some, it doesn't hinder game play at all; this game isn't trying to be Starcraft. While some of the ships or weapons may look a little corny (especially the laser-type weapons as they're just single-color lines), the aliens are still fairly cool (though unanimated). The simple, unpretentious style of the game is rather pleasing and comfortable, and sets the proper tone for the game. This is all in keeping with the Cheapass Games philosophy--their board games come without pieces in order to lower the cost to the buyer, whereas Strange Adventures goes low key on the graphics and cuts out a significant part of their budget without producing an ugly or unpleasant game. 3 out of 5.

      Playability: It takes all of a minute to figure out the controls of the game without a single glance at the manual, making it one of the absolute easiest control schemes possible. One starts off by naming the captain (you) and the ship (the ship… duh), choosing one of three weapon combinations to begin with, and adjusting the difficulty by altering the number of hostile alien encounters and the prevalence of nebulae (which significantly slow the progress of your ship through the galaxy without the proper type of star drive). The control scheme for the game could not be simpler, as everything is done with your mouse. On the galactic map, you simply click on a star you wish to explore and go there, taking time to travel based on the speed of your drive (which is deducted from the time you have to complete the mission--going over that time reduces your score, and we'll discuss that more in a moment). You move from star to star collecting weapons, system upgrades, trade goods, and alien animals, all of which serve varying purposes in the game. Ship to ship battles are the only other screen type, featuring an overhead view with a star map laid out as a grid to judge distance. Attacking your enemy consists of clicking on them to aim and fire, and adjusting the speed from paused (to plan strategies or readjust your aim), normal, or fast-forward (when you want to cut to the chase). Everything is made simple and kept entertaining for the player except one important detail--the score.
          While Strange Adventures plays out simply, figuring out how to raise your score is a brain-busting feat that was quite simply beyond this monkey's means. I am not a stupid ape--I figure things out pretty quickly (like how Chimpan-A always throws Rock in a Rock-Scissors-Paper match or how to get the banana out of Simi N's nose when it was stuck all day…never mind that I was the one who crammed it up there--I still say getting it out makes me a hero, and he owes me for it)--but calculating the score is like writing your name on a jell-o mold with a spatula using only your ass. You figure out early on that the Difficulty mode has something to do with it, and there's a bar graph at the end that states the relative level of how you were scored in various areas (of course, it's only relative to those other areas, and without a context). There's some sort of way to figure it out I'm sure, but I'm not going to try anymore, because last time I thought really hard about it I blacked out, and Dungapult says the smoke rising from my nostrils set off his fire alarm. I say it serves him right, sticking a fire alarm up in his dumpster--people flick cigarettes in there all the time anyway. 4 out of 5.

      Multiplayer and Replayability: This is where the true genius of Strange Adventures comes in to play. It may not have fantastic graphics, and you may only be able to calculate the score if Stephen Hawking comes over and helps you, but the game plays out in twenty minutes or less. That's right, playing through the game one time takes anywhere from one to ten minutes most times, so in most cases you could literally hold your breath longer than it takes to play through a single encounter. This may sound like an awful thing to those of you used to playing five-year saga RPGs with heroes named Flambeau Buttheart, but consider that this game was intended to go right up there with FreeCell and Spider Solitaire as time-wasting devices. Thanks to the very low system requirements, you can probably install it on that calculator-and-toaster combo labeled 'Kunpudar' in your cubicle at MicroSlack and play through two or three games every time you need a coffee break after dealing with your TPS reports. Thanks to the game randomizing encounters and map layout every session, you're never playing the same mission twice, and you'll find yourself playing fifty-game marathons on high difficulty just to see if you get a mission where you can fight the Yellow Kawanagi (and they're worth looking for, believe you me--this monkey wouldn't lie unless there was something in it for him).
          While there is no multiplayer option (and who needs it on a three-minute game?), the game is as replayable as Solitaire any day, and it has better graphics. 4.5 out of 5.

      The Verdict:

       It's not going to rock your world or clean your clock, but Strange Adventures in Infinite Space will give you something to do during commercial breaks that won't actually overlap into that Babylon 5 rerun you're watching. If you're getting tired of the computer laughing at you because you can't win at Solitaire, or trying to win 100 FreeCell games in a row and then cursing when bad luck ruins your winning streak, give Strange Adventures in Infinite Space a try. It's inexpensive, takes up very little room, plays out in about five minutes, and will keep you coming back for more.

      The Good: Quick and easy game play, great replayability, charming sound effects, and a gun which lets you shoot micrometeorites at your enemies.

      The Bad: Graphics are pretty low-end, no multiplayer, pretty simple for the advanced gamer.

      The Overall Ugly: It will replace Spider Solitaire as your favorite "quick fix" game. Trust me. I am the Ape Who Knows.

      What it's Worth: At $15, you just can't go wrong. Market.

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