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Christmas 1969 was already a hazy memory when I walked into the Born Loser for a drink. The faces were grim and mostly unfamiliar, but I was sure I had seen that one before. Yes, there could be no mistake, she was The Thunder. The very same bounty hunter who captured Moon Dora years ago on Mubuka. I promptly bought her a beer and some space ramen. She liked me and thought we could help each other out; an offer I knew I couldn’t turn down.
Then the phone rang. Alma The Husky was seen just outside a cantina on central Buroutwi and I had to hurry and catch her, for, I too, am a bounty hunter. Then again, so is almost everyone else in this geometrical Expat universe of ours.
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Everbody else seems to either be an insignificant dot pursuing mysterious and most probably puny goals or a criminal — our bounty. Our means to a better life, a patched-up body, a good star-ship and all the gas, beer and ramen money can buy.
But bounty is not just about money. It provides us with the targets over which we hunters bond. Get to know each other. Make friends. Meet lovers. Yes, it’s a tough and dangerous life, but the pay’s decent, the company’s fine and the old adrenaline keeps pushing us all to become the best we can be. Despite that damn phone ringing every damn time I’m about to apprehend a villain.
Or am I the villain? Shouldn’t I just let a soul escape through the Warp Gate every now and then? Don’t these people have friends and family (actually, they do, it’s how I often track them down)? Aren’t I just another dot flying a triangular little ship trying to make ends meet?
Obviously not. I’m just having a bit of fun with the excellent hunt-and-sell-’em-up sim Expat by Brendon Chung of Blendo Games fame, while hopelessly trying to convey a bit of its atmosphere. The atmosphere of a late ’70s sci-fi flick with hints of Firefly thrown in.
Expat, as surely everyone and their cat has already guessed, casts you as a bounty hunter who must use his contacts, associates and friends in order to track down criminals and apprehend them. You’ll get to travel around procedurally generated planets in real time, check out places like the Dragon Coffee House or Mui’s Loveshack, use your phone a lot and eventually battle and capture your target. Or get killed. Or find they’ve highjacked a ship and are already flying towards the nearest warp gate while you were busy answering the call of a friend who has helped you far too many times to ignore.
No matter what, you’ll have a great time and your imagination will get a decent work out from those rudimentary graphics, so I suggest you download Expat either from itch.io or Blendo’s site (you’ll have to scroll down a bit) and get playing immediately. It’s a brilliantly engrossing, rich game brimming with innovative mechanics and ideas.