Gaming Memories: Operation: Inner Space

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A demon / evil force possesses your computer and now you have to enter it in a miniature plane / spaceship to re-capture your program icons and free your computer from the evil influence. Sounds like a plot that is right at home in the 90s, isn’t it? And it is… what I described is the ground works for “Operation: Inner Space”, a shareware-distributed game for Windows 3.x that brought me quite a few hours of fun at the time.

Most of the time you spend in Asteroids-like levels, but additionally to avoiding (or shooting) rocks and some other obstacles/turrets, you’ll have to collect the icons that are floating around. You aren’t the only one trying to do so, though, as there are multiple teams with different “personalities” that have the same goal. Depending on which team you are on (this is decided by your choice of vehicle at the start of the game), they may be friendly or hostile towards you. There’s also a team that acts kind of like a police force, if you are too aggressive, they start coming after you. Besides the regular levels, there are also race-track levels where you have to beat your opponents by being faster than them instead of concentrating on destroying them. There’s also occasions where you have to face an “Inner Demon” to gain special powers that help you fight against the final boss.

One thing that made this game special was that it dynamically generated the content by scanning your hard drive and using your folders as the levels, so depending on which folder you entered, the amount of icons would differ. With enough icons you could enter a shop to either repair or upgrade your vehicle, making it even more important to collect as many of them as possible. The full version of the game also included a ship editor where you could create your own. Graphics- and sound-wise, the game was pretty simple, of course (pretty much comes with the territory of being a Windows 3.x game), but it did its job.

Given how big hard drives are nowadays, a game like this would probably need to be adjusted design-wise, or it would become far too repetitive. Some more level-types would probably help significantly. But thinking about the game does make me wish that some more unusual scenarios like with this game would be tried out (again). What do you think?

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