Space-faring RPG Infinite Space brings a ton of unique content and depth to Nintendo's handheld, but a general lack of polish keeps it from living up to the potential to of its premise.
- Clever ship-building minigame
- Unique space combat
- Epic scale
- General lack of polish
- Slow start and unclear objectives
- Plenty of cut corners
It’s clear that Platinum Games is one of the most talented studios in the industry. Both MadWorld and Bayonetta were distinct, compelling games with their own quirky identities and boundary-pushing gameplay. Not surprisingly, the studio’s third game, Infinite Space, is just as unique. Like the previous two Platinum titles, Infinite Space is an interesting experiment. And although it’s only a partially successful endeavor, it has a lot of great ideas and a ton of content for a portable game.
Platinum in Space
Infinite Space puts the player in the jumpsuit of Yuri, a young man with dreams to leave his home planet so he can explore the reaches of space and learn the truth about a mysterious artifact he has inherited. Yuri and the other characters are little more than portraits in menus – the real stars of the game are the spaceships. Early on you’ll take control of your own ship, which you’ll upgrade with new modules, staff up with crew and, of course, helm in ship-to-ship battles.
Into the Universe
Said battles are simple but can be remarkably tense. Your available actions are governed by the command gauge, which fills over time. At first, you’re limited to dodges, normal attacks and barrage attacks, with additional options unlocked as you progress. Choosing a battle option depletes your command gauge, limiting your choices until it refills. A second meter indicates distance between you and your enemy, so most battles involve a mix of managing your attack types and adjusting the distance between you and your opponent. Unleashing your powerful barrage attack leaves you defenseless for a few moments, which can be quite nerve-wracking if your enemy has avoided your attack with a dodge and is ready with a barrage of his own.
Even a simple random encounter (of which there are many) can be deadly if you don’t know how to manage the flow of combat. Even so, it’s doubtful that many players will find it to be the most compelling aspect of gameplay. Infinite Space features surprisingly robust ship and fleet customization, and tinkering with the minutia of these options was easily my favorite part of the game. Every ship has physical space that can be filled with modules that affect every aspect of your ship’s performance, from armor and weapon damage to crew capacity and fatigue. Heck, you can even add an accounting office. Each module is a Tetris-like block, so you’ll not only have to think about your budget, but your ship’s physical layout. It’s a great little minigame that lends a real feeling of ownership over your spacecraft. As you advance through the game, you’ll earn more ships and expand your fleet. Eventually you’ll have a small armada of customizable vessels, and the dozens of crewmembers you encounter each have different effects when applied to various posts on your flagship. If you love fidgeting with RPG loadouts, you’ll love Infinite Space.
Problems with Propulsion
While Infinite Space does many things right, an overall lack of polish holds it back from RPG greatness. There isn’t any single glaring flaw, just a long series of cut corners and elements that feel missing that weigh down the overall experience. There’s no in-game tracking of your objectives, so if you forget which strangely-named planet you’re supposed to fly to, you’re out of luck and have to explore randomly until you stumble upon it. Die in a battle and there’s no restart -- you’ve got to reload your last game and do it all again. Visiting planets is nothing more than tapping through menus that seemed to be designed with little thought. If there are two conversation topics for a character, you’re kicked out of the discussion after choosing the first and have to re-select the character to talk about the other. Fail to explore all conversation options and you might miss a valuable crew member. These small eccentricities add up and cast an unfortunate rough-edged feel to what is otherwise a solid RPG.
The general lack of polish may turn off some gamers, but Infinite Space’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. The customizable ships and fleet management are surprisingly habit-forming, and its unique combat mechanic is engaging despite its simplicity. It’s nothing like Bayonetta or MadWorld in genre, platform or aesthetic, but like those titles from Platinum Games, it’s certainly an acquired taste. That said, Infinite Space is certainly a role-playing experience that brings some intriguing new ideas to the table.