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Preview: Trials in Tainted Space

Has science gone too far? Definitely not!

In recent years, thanks to how web page programming standards have risen thanks to HTML5, browser games like Trials in Tainted Space have grown contempt for Adobe Flash. Along with HTML5 being capable enough to run games with sharp 3D voxels in at least 60 frames per second, not being tied to proprietary languages like ActionScript has become the rage as kids and adults have more smartphones using Android or iOS. Although web code is still relatively abstracted compared to computer language, flexibility, and portable hardware have saw fit to seek greener pastures on mobile.

Having made Corruption of Champions previously, Fenoxo has become a brand name when it comes to pornographic text adventures. Using the lessons he learned, Trials in Tainted Space is his first project that will run natively on Android and iOS, while still having legacy Flash support for PC whether online or offline.  Trials in Tainted Space is currently in an alpha state though it has also adopted a freemium stance to spur development, which causes a little confusion. If you find Fenoxo’s development blog first, you’ll be taken to a link page to download for all games on all platforms, without hinting what version they are; however, if you visit Tainted in Tainted Space’s development page , the site clams up on the obvious “play” prompt and requires you to prove that you fund the game before accessing the latest release, without any links to previous builds. The “about” page also requires registration to see a frank message on why and how he’s developing the game – if the player wants to see what the game’s actually about, the wiki page is free to browse without registering while getting to the nitty-gritty.

It’s a shame that finding info about the game is so obfuscated, because when you do find out what it’s about, the game is surprisingly good. I hope Fenoxo finds a better way to explain himself in the future.

This game puts new meaning into “emergent gameplay”.

In Trials in Tainted Space, you open up with a minimal interface that will likely stay that way throughout the game – the Spartan presentation is clean and rounded enough to feel as futuristic as the Sci-Fi theme implies. Yet when you press “new game”, you’re not actually playing/Godmode designing your puppet to put through hell – you see through your protagonist’s father as he seeks to have an heir to his promiscuous legacy, first by impregnating one of the five alien races of your choice. Along with the usual human race, the others are based upon terran dogs and cats with upgraded packages, centaurs, and a hermaphrodite race. The flavor text is interwoven with the options as you choose your protagonist’s traits, going through adulthood in a natural progression until you finally attend your old man’s funeral. Even the tutorial is filtered through a silver tongue, promptly explaining your gadgets & mechanics with in-universe terms before explaining your old man’s final wish – your protagonist will join in a planet colonization project and make their stake before anyone else, possibly siring their own heirs along the way. After a well-explained test fight, with your wrist device and rocket ship, you’re off to adventure.

The first good news is that the keyboard shortcuts are mapped exactly to all the options (which have a further explanation when hovered over) available to you, to the point that you can use the keyboard exclusively if you wish. It may be annoying that the number shortcuts don’t correspond to the numeric keypad for right-handed play, but southpaws and those with tenkeyless keyboards would pay no mind. What can’t be ignored, however, is how much Fenoxo’s writing quality has improved since his earlier games; in addition to being more descriptive, the dialogue in Trials in Tainted Space has a graceful charm and coherence that feels like if Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was an erotic novel. Speaking of coherency, all characters you can interact with have portraits and location information above a clearly-defined map with easy to guess icons. In addition to townspeople always having something to do, the quest log system is sorted in a faux email interface, letting you know about time-specific events in other areas. Inventory has received a major overhaul as well, with equipment automatically comparing itself to what’s equipped to indicate clear stat boosts, debuffs, and perks. Traditional armor-like clothing doesn’t have stat bonuses, though, which belong to the holographic shields equipped that makes combat simple yet fashionable.

This snake’s quite a prick.

Combat itself in Trials in Tainted Space is quite stylish too, with a smooth user interface that splits player & enemy information between the text prompts. In an ironic twist, the shield is more than just armor – it functions as a secondary health bar that recharges after every battle, saving you from losing HP during quick fights. They don’t save you from status effects, however, which enemies will abuse to get the upper hand to drag the fight out to drain your shields. Unfortunately, potions only exist in hospitals, leaving you to use shield repair kits in battle if your health starts running too low. With a high punishment for managing battles poorly, it gives more incentive for desperate measures, ad for a job well done, you can demean your opponent in several ways, depending on how you shape your character.

Fenoxo seems to have learned a lot during his past projects, which feels like natural progression from the ideas he had for Corruption of Champions and accomplishes much more from his experience. The writing, interface, and game flow deserve some praise for reaching a professional level that almost deserves a mainstream release. If you felt underwhelmed from his previous games, Trials in Tainted Space is probably the game to change your mind if you want a good dungeon crawler with a slice of hentai. Time will tell if it gets out of alpha gracefully, but I have a good feeling that it won’t be a long wait.

If you would like to contribute to the game, besides the several ways you can fund his Patreon , he also has guidelines on submitting written content to fill in the event gaps during the alpha phase.

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