I admit I have a bit of a soft spot for space combat games. I feel like it’s a genre that doesn’t get the respect that it deserves. There are plenty of classic space games that I could list in support of argument that space games are just neato torpedo, but I won’t. Mostly because you can find those lists all over the internet. I will say this; there hasn’t been enough of an effort to translate the exploration, freedom, and enjoyment to modern game design standards. By definition, most old school space faring games are arduous to control without a specialized joystick, and even then the experience wasn’t always worth the peripheral investment. Maybe that’s why when people ask me what my favorite space sim games are, my answers tend to surprise them. Colony Wars: Red Sun, Zone of the Enders, and Freelancer, aren’t the names that are usually associated with the genre, but hot damn do I love them. Why? They’re fun, and the controls are fluid and easy to learn. It’s kind of that simple.
It was with all this in mind that I dove headfirst into Strike Suit Infinity. I usually try to suspend my internal hope that a game will be good or bad when I’m tasked with reviewing something, but I have to admit I was really looking forward to playing this. The game’s visual style was reminiscent of Zone of the Enders, and it touted complete controller support. Unfortunately, that’s where all the similarities to better games end.
Strike Suit Infinity screws the pooch right off the bat with poorly designed controls. Thrusting and shooting are the left and right trigger, while targeting is handled by X, and B. Targeting is also a weirdly handled thing in and of itself. Where most space games would have you toggle through targets down a list, or toggle through left to right, this game’s mechanic is confusingly different by default. B targets the enemy closest to you, while X targets the enemy in front of you. Does that make sense? Well get used to it, because without some tinkering of the controls, that’s how the game would prefer that you cycle through targets. This is insanely frustrating in later segments, where the game expects you to take down a specific target within a certain amount of time. Surrounded by projectiles, and swarms of insect like ships you will only have fractions of seconds to react and take down the target. The clumsy targeting won’t allow for it.
The targeting is made more frustrating by the clumsy flight control layout. While thrusting is handled by the left trigger, you can also get a sustained boost in the form of your afterburners. With a quick click of the left analog stick, your ship will go flying toward your goal with a significant boost in speed. It works any time that you want to travel in a straight line, but is very difficult to pull off when you want to turn or do anything more complicated than the star ship equivalent of showing the space police you aren’t drunk (Walking a straight line joke people.). This can be alleviated by switching to a mouse and keys, but it’s obvious that the developers wanted gamepad support as a feature that they could tout.
The gameplay itself is similarly held back. While there is definitely a lot of action onscreen at once, trying to be able to reason with any of it to the point of playability can be hard at times. For starters, the game plays as a series of unlockable levels. If at any point you die, you are returned to the title screen to attempt to do it again. This is of course after you have to endure a lengthy Game Over screen complete with a summation of your failure. Why the game won’t just let you restart the mission from the point of your death is beyond me. That’s not all though, almost all of the weapons require that you be close enough to your enemies that you could butter their toast for them; this is made even more confounding when you’re using missiles, because they don’t really spell out their effective range for you, you just have to kind of guess. Plasma weapons drain too quickly, and the guns that use limited supplies of ammo never seem to pack enough punch. The only time that you do seem to dole out an appropriate amount of damage is when you’ve transformed into Suit Mode.
Strike Suit Infinity‘s main gameplay mechanic is that your ship can transform from Strike Mode, to Suit Mode as long as you’ve accrued enough flux. You get flux by wasting space baddies, and then use the flux to transform. Once transformed, you will continually drain flux from your suit until the flux meter is empty and you revert back to Strike Mode. While in Suit Mode, you can shoot slightly more powerful guns, and launch missiles at multiple targets at once. The problems with Suit Mode are numerous. The suit moves much slower than the ship, the flux meter drains much too fast, and the targeting goes from bad to worse when in Suit Mode. It’s really to the point where what is supposed to be the main selling point of the game, ends up being one of the biggest detriments.
Strike Suit Infinity is not a game that is terrible by any means. It’s just a game that had some really high hopes for itself but failed to deliver those things in a way that was organic and a little bit more fun. There is a peculiar level of polish to everything that suggests that the team really tried to deliver the goods, but just somehow didn’t connect a few dots. Fortunately, these aren’t the types of substantive missteps that would undermine the game beyond the point of reproach with some successive releases of patching. Still, it’s odd to see a really good idea get bogged down by little design mistakes here and there.