Friday, February 3, 2012

Mission in Space

At first glance, Mission in Space neither looks nor sounds terribly special. Indeed, the very name stinks of the generic, even if it does succinctly describe the game in three tiny words.

Don't be fooled. Mission in Space is actually damn fun to play, and a real challenge for anybody with a love of tactical games.


'kay. Get this. Mission in Space is about a colony - in space - that's been overrun by nasty xenomorphic critters. The powers that be can't allow the poor colonists to die unavenged, so they've sent in the marines to assess the situation, clear out any survivors and kill as many aliens as possible.

Sound familiar? 'course it does. That's the plot to a thousand sci-fi movies since the coming of Aliens, and probably even a few times before then. And I'm sure it'll be used many more times in the future, as well, 'cause that scenario is a staple of outer space horror. Where else are ravenous aliens gonna turn up? On Earth? That's boring.

So, yes, the story is a teensy bit lackluster. Behind it, however, lies a turn-based tactical squad game that, while pared back a bit to fit into browser game territory, is nevertheless a hell of a fun ride - not to mention damn difficult, as you have a limited number of units in each level, and they die reeeeeeal easy.


Mission in Space is controlled by your mouse. Got one? You're set. Get ready to browser some menus. And, unlike a lot of other tactical games along the same lines, these menus won't take you five years to figure out. Much appreciated.


Mission in Space immediately reminded me of both X-COM and Jagged Alliance graphically, albeit with cleaner, but slightly less interesting, visuals. Your colonial surroundings aren't TERRIBLY fascinating, but they do set the scene in a wholly adequate manner. And, I'll admit, these is a bit of variety between levels, so you're not always staring at the same four or five hallways.

I was less enamoured by the character sprites. The coloured marines are fine, since a) you need to tell them apart and b) they're all bound to be wearing the same uniforms, but the aliens... eh... not so much. Granted, their colour schemes change with their abilities, but for the most part you're facing the same damn monster a thousand times over. Works in the movies when they're more dynamic, but here... could probably use more variety to spice up the game.


Mission in Space's music vacillates between 'suspenseful-sneaking-down-dark-corridors' and 'it's-time-to-kick-some-alien-ass'. A little generic, like the name, but the tracks were appropriate to the situation, and good enough that I'd never complain. (Sound quality is a little eh.)

The game also offers the usual range of sound effects relating to movement and attack, and while the gunfire and slithering and such was just normal fare, I DID appreciate that each trooper in your squad seems to have a different voice when they get hit. Granted, that means you're just hearing them grunt, but, baby steps, yeah?

Challenge Rating

HERE'S the fun part of Mission in Space, the part that makes the game worth playing. This sucker is hard, hard, hard.

Most missions feature objectives, many of which split your team - DnD fans will know that's a bad idea - but the general idea is this: you have six troopers. You need to get them from point A to point B in turn-based style, fighting forever-respawning aliens along the way. You have limited ammo, only one character can heal his mates, and getting hit two or three times is TYPICALLY more than enough to kill a marine.

Sound like fun? It is, it is.

Granted, your marines are not as overwhelmed as they sound. You can take several shots per marine per turn, and between turns you can even set your units to fire on incoming aliens automatically, drastically reducing the chances that they'll get close. This also reduces the amount of action points they'll get the NEXT round, though, so you need to really get on your mission objectives in a hurry. You can't sit in one spot and blow up aliens until the level empties out, 'cause that just don't happen.

Also, special abilities. And upgrades. Helpful. Very, very helpful. They also give each marine a character, after a fashion, so you start to care for the little guys above and beyond the norm.

Mission in Space is not the most difficult tactical game I've ever played, but at times it comes damn close - and since you're constantly dogged by the alien menace, you'll feel like you're up against impossible odds all the time. That creates some surprisingly tense moments, given that it's a turn-based game.

Poor Woods. He died shortly after that screenshot, defending the door.


Impatient? Compulsive? Suck at chess? Mission in Space is not for you. This is a game for strategic minds, and any player who can form - and execute - a plan based on squad tactics will squeal in glee at the challenge presented by this lovely browser game. Highly recommended. (Good luck on Hard mode - I'm not even gonna try. I'll die.)


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