Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space

"Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here." - Emperor Ming, Flash Gordon

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Time, as they say, is of the essence. You've got fifteen minutes before Junior wakes up for his hourly attention hogging. Before you know it, your significant other will be home, sucking up your free time with such mindless activities as talking, eating, or naked frolicking. You'd like to conquer the Roman Empire, crush the Horde, capture the red team's flag, but who has the time for that? You're a gamer on the go, and you've gotta get your fifteen minutes of fame in ten minutes or less.

Independent developer Digital Eel's got the cure for your time crunch, and it's called Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.

Weird Worlds is a top-down quasi-turn-based space exploration game. It's also a real-time space combat game. Oh, and it's sort of like a space colonization game. Weird Worlds is tough to pin down, genre-wise "… it falls squarely in the middle, an intergalactic adventure where you assemble a flotilla of spacecraft and explore the world of Sector Prime, seeking new life, new weapons, or just lots of new loot.

Each game starts with you choosing one of three starships. Want to make friends with the alien civilizations you meet? Take the Science Vessel and embark on a mission that will reward you more points for first contacts, ambassadors from other worlds, and bizarre extraterrestrial artifacts. Want to conquer the alien scum? Launch your Terran Frigate and collect more powerful weapons and defensive systems while blowing up all the aliens who refuse to bow to your superior might. Or command the Pirate Corvette and just steal everything that isn't bolted down.

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You'll also pick the length of your tour of duty, from 10, 20, or 30 years. Longer missions increase the number of star systems randomly generated on your star map, but don't necessarily translate to longer length of play. Even the most intense missions tend to be finished in 20 minutes, letting you fit galactic conquest in between real world meetings.

All missions start from the human home world of Hope, in the Glory system. Fly to the nearest star system and you'll find planets filled with strange and often amusing landmarks, as well as various kinds of items on the planet's surface. These can either be used on your ship or stored in your cargo hold for later. Each item has a trade value from one to five that changes depending on the mission you're on, and many items will have a "use" button. Whether or not you can actually use those items depends on the situation you're in.

Throughout the game you'll also run into several of the game's seven alien races. From the warmongering Garthans to the mercantile Klakar, each race reacts differently depending on what items you have found. For instance, in one game I found myself running into the Tchorak, massive meteor-like life forms that are next to impossible to destroy in combat. Suddenly my science officer remembers that we have the Danger Fish on board, a half-cyborg fish that shares some family ties with the gigantic rocks of doom. We decide to send the specimen over, and while the two are talking about their second cousin's uncle we bolt past them to the planet's surface below. Thank the Space Pope for diplomacy!

If diplomacy isn't an option, you'll find yourself on the combat screen. Combat is real-time but can be paused at any time to issue commands, a la Baldur's Gate. Be warned though, combat in Weird Worlds can be deadly if you don't have powerful equipment or lots of allies on your side. And even if you're lucky enough to have that massive Particle Vortex Cannon installed, victory isn't assured. There have been a few occasions where a little bit of strategy allowed me to come out just barely victorious, but more often than not I've seen my flotilla blown to beautifully rendered OpenGL bits.

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Assuming you can survive, you'll return home to Glory at the end of your mission, and the points will be awarded. What items you have, how many ships you have, what aliens you met and how you handled them will all be factored into your score. Then the game is over. The longest game I've had in two weeks of playing? Half an hour. This is quite possibly the best lunch break game you'll find.

You won't need a hyperdrive in your PC to play Weird Worlds. The manual recommends a Pentium II and 128 megs of Ram, meaning that most GWJer's systems should handle it just fine. The game is graphically impressive by modern standards, with bright colors and impressive effects. Weird Worlds has a 1950's sci-fi comic style, invoking memories of Saturday afternoon B-movies full of lasers and strange rubber aliens. The sound is also phenomenal, quirky and alien and, at times, spooky. The creepy bass beats that play every time you enter combat or are about to board an abandoned alien ship give the impression that in Sector Prime, no one can hear you scream.

I haven't even talked about the modding capabilities built into Weird Worlds, and I've barely scratched the surface on all the little secrets, encounters, and humorous items hidden in the game. But why ruin it for you? The demo lets you play 10-year missions with the Pirate Corvette, and when you find out the full game in either downloadable format or shipped in a DVD case is only $25, it gets awful hard to not click "Buy." This is what independent gaming is all about: a game with fresh, entertaining ideas that you can play through in minutes, but still has enough depth to keep you coming back. Digital Eel's Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space is a great example of what independent gaming can be.

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space
Official Site
Nov. 2005 (PC)
Digital Eel
Shrapnel Games

Comments

Demiurge wrote:

The manual recommends a Pentium II and 128 megs of Ram, meaning that most GWJer's systems should handle it just fine.

"If not," he added, "it may be time to upgrade your calculator."

Nice review. I'll have to check this one out. (May make today's productivity a bit lower than usual... ;))

Looks cool!

As a huge Star Control addict I will definately trying this one out tonight. Thanks for the educamation!

Nice to see this game getting front page treatment. I've been singing its praises for a few months now, and it is my quick game of choice on my PC.

At least check out the demo. The writing is top notch.

I finally picked this up about a week ago. It's a lot of fun. Definitely check out the demo. Once you buy the full version, it looks like the mods are only available in their forum.

This looks really sweet! Definitely worth a look. Hey Mayfield, I've already pimped the open source Star Control 2 remake to you, right?

Looks neat. Wish it had a native Linux port or was on 360 Marketplace.

Though with requirements like that, I can probably play it in Cedega or even my VMWare WinXP session.

Am I the only one that read the title as Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Lives? I don't think I've clicked a link that fast in my entire life. *disappointment*

Great review Demiurge! I've heard this game floating about but haven't tried it. Will check the demo this weekend.

Sounds very interesting. Might hold me off until GalCiv2 comes along and occupies my spaceship fetish

This might be just the thing to satisfy the urges in my gaming crotch.

buzzvang wrote:

Hey Mayfield, I've already pimped the open source Star Control 2 remake to you, right?

Yup.. I was happy it did not come with the keys to unlock the game in the manual like the original did. Ahhh you kids new to PC gaming have it easy!

I have a Palm version that I've had a ton of fun playing...except when the star-killing aliens decide to play....then it's bye-bye....

I was happy it did not come with the keys to unlock the game in the manual like the original did.

God I hated that anti-piracy method. I have a great game called Uplink that I can't play because my friend lost the code sheet to unlock it.

Weird Worlds definately looks interesting though, I'll give the demo a try tonight. I wonder if I could play it while on griffon flights in WoW.... hmmmm.

Thanks for reading the review, guys.

Legion wrote:

Though with requirements like that, I can probably play it in Cedega or even my VMWare WinXP session.

Will VMWare do the OpenGL? If so, you should be fine. I did a quick search to see if anyone had tried it with Cedega but didn't come up with anything.

Great review Demi.

I fired up the demo right away and enjoyed the heck out of it. On my first trip to a new star system I got sucked into a blackhole.....game over. Fired it up again and was able to play a little longer :D.

Demiurge wrote:

Will VMWare do the OpenGL?

Well it has a software renderer, and it has experimental hardware support (though I wouldn't count on that being the solution just yet). I'm thinking if it's not that demanding, it should work. I'll test it and see.

Sweet, this looks fun, thanks!

Damn, ALMOST but not quite in VMWare. It installs and launches and it can render every frame perfectly, but just too slow in rendering.

Will have to tinker with Cedega and try that way.

I checked this game out a while back, great graphics, but couldn't stand their biggest bragging point, the short games, i hate short games.

Why does this remind me so much of Commander Keen. This has been the best damn demo in a looooong time. Thank you.

Is it just me, or are there a couple of things that are just ridiculously overpowered? There are about 4 items that I try to pick up each game, and if I do, there's not anything anybody can do to stop me from taking over the galaxy; if I don't get them, I struggle to see even most of the areas I can reach.

I dunno; feels a bunch unbalanced to me. Is the full game the same way?

Chumpy_McChump wrote:

Is it just me, or are there a couple of things that are just ridiculously overpowered? There are about 4 items that I try to pick up each game, and if I do, there's not anything anybody can do to stop me from taking over the galaxy; if I don't get them, I struggle to see even most of the areas I can reach.

I dunno; feels a bunch unbalanced to me. Is the full game the same way?

I understand the struggling part.. I played 4 games this weekend and got blown up twice, sucked into a black hole once, and made it back late to home base to lose money! It is fun but kinda tough.. I would rather have long missions I think. Damn another $25 into my gaming addiction....