Digital Eel’s Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space is the perfect lunch-hour game. Explore the galaxy, combat dangerous aliens, and discover strange and valuable artifacts all in 30 minutes or less. In fact, it’s often possible to get several games in that half-hour period. And while Weird Worlds is chaotic, unbalanced, and incredibly random, it’s also a blast to play.
The premise of the game is simple. A 2D map represents the known galaxy, with several star clusters sprinkled about. Players start out in control of a rather puny ship, and are given a set amount of time to explore the galaxy, grab as much valuable cargo as possible, and get back home before time runs out. Depending on the galaxy size chosen at the beginning, games can last as little as 5 minutes or as long as 30. A simple click on a neighboring star system sends the little ship out to explore. If the location is unguarded, players can often find a few exciting items to collect, perhaps useful ship upgrades, perhaps interesting trinkets of value. Sometimes players stumble upon a trading post, allowing for a quick swap of cargo for bigger and better goodies. And often, the star system is guarded by hostile alien forces, leading to inevitable combat.
Combat is as straightforward as the rest of the game. Moving to a 2D battle map, players control their ship (along with those of any hired mercenaries) and attempt to reduce their enemies to piles of smoldering debris. Some rudimentary tactical decisions must be made, but more often than not the straightforward “get ‘em!” approach works well, provided the ships have been properly upgraded with bigger and better weapon and defensive systems. Control of the ships is nothing more than simple left-clicks, making for quick-and-dirty fights. Provided the players emerge victorious, spoils are awarded and it’s off to the next destination.
The galaxy is full of other oddities, black holes, strange alien races, amusing artifacts, and wondrous gizmos able to make each play-through unique. In addition, players can choose from a scientific, military, or pirate mission for each game, making Weird Worlds hugely replayable. And given that I often run through 3-10 games in a single sitting, replayability is quite important.
The game looks decent, in a low-key sort of way. The graphics are sharp, the layout is smooth and the various visual effects are often amusing to see. Sound is a bit lacking, but this is the sort of game that’s often played in the office during lunch, so many will be playing this muted or low-volume anyway. The interface is very simple to learn, and players will be touring the galaxy with ease in very little time. And, like many of the games published by Shrapnel Games, Weird Worlds is highly moddable, so player-designed enhancements are ensured. All in all, it’s a very slick little time-killer.
In summary, Weird Worlds is the perfect little game for those instances where time is tight. You get the full-blown galaxy-exploring experience in 30 minutes or less, and it’s quite an enjoyable time to boot. Just be careful—this little gem is addictive, and “just one more game” may make for a few too many extended lunch breaks.
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