Time played: 3 hours
Portable games are often expected to be light, short-session experiences that you can jump into at any time, understand immediately, and play for minutes at a time. Infinite Space is not that at all. It is a deeply complex RPG with several interacting systems, all wrapped in a not-too-friendly interface. In fact, it's pretty much as baroque as you would expect a game about leading fleets of spaceships of your own design to be.
You play as Yuri, a young man who dreams of living the spacefaring life, and who finally gets the chance when he hires Nia to give him passage off his home planet. The spacefaring life, it turns out, is a lot more Han Solo than Jean-Luc Picard, with Nia, Yuri and a growing crew traveling from spaceport to spaceport, picking up cargo at taverns, getting into random fights with spaceships and using their ill-gotten gains to purchase more ships and equipment and hire more crew.
The battle system in and of itself is pretty simple. Your ship can move backward and forward to position itself in weapons range while a weapon meter charges. You can choose to fire your weapons at "normal" or "barrage" levels, with "barrage" depleting more of the meter, or you can dodge. There's a rock-paper-scissors aspect to it: Dodging avoids barrages, but exacerbates damage from normal attacks; barrages do much more damage than normal attacks in other cases.
But it's everything that you do to prepare for battle that will motivate interstellar head-scratching. When I bought my first ship and outfitted it, it wasn't long before I realized that my new ship was garbage compared to my old "beginner" ship. The number of crew members you have, the jobs you give them, the type of weapons you buy, the type and number of modules (things like crew quarters, accounting offices, weapon amplifiers, and other facilities) you install, all affect your ship's performance, and it's not entirely clear how they do so.
Everything adds to stats like "livability" ... whose effect I don't really know. No matter what I did to my ship or its crew, the two stats I needed to raise didn't budge -- the speed at which my weapons gauge refilled and the accuracy of my shots. In a ship that could shoot half as frequently as its opponents, and whose lasers miss literally 90% of the time anyway, I'm a sitting space duck. To put it mildly, this has hampered my freedom to explore space.
If you want to shoot your way through a sci-fi story at anything resembling a brisk pace, you will probably hit the same wall I did (the wall being made of laser beams from enemy spaceships). However, if you want to get your hands dirty tinkering with a ludicrously customizable fleet of spaceships -- if that is the part of the game that most attracts your interests -- you might have the sensibilities required to be a Zero G-Dog (which is what space traveling types are called in the game). There's definitely enough content to keep you occupied.