Sunday, April 8

Review: Infernium [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Through the ages there have been many visions of Hell, whether seen as varied and multi-tiered through the eyes of Dante or as a realm of suffering and order via more modern takes from the likes of Clive Barker. Infernium brings a new take to the table with it being a somewhat odd and yet beautiful place. Yet there are still things to be wary of and that will pursue you relentlessly, never allowing you to linger or enjoy any of it for very long.


Described by the game’s creator as, in part, being a modern survival horror take on Pac-Man there’s a certain degree of truth to the statement. As you explore and try to make sense of where you are and what you’ll need to do you’ll periodically run into a colored cowl. Once triggered these will relentlessly pursue you until you’ve either slipped away from them by closing a door or moving to a new area. These sequences, in particular, create a nice tension through the music and environmental effects as these spectres close in and if they manage to touch you (or you fall off an edge, are crushed, etc) you will die and get transported back to a space that contains a fair number of orbs. These, however, aren’t just for decoration as they represent the total number of opportunities you’ll have to make your way through the space before the game will be over and you’ll need to start again.

Mechanically what you’ll quickly find is that your abilities throughout your adventure don’t afford you much protection, they primarily serve as a means to get around and unlock new areas. Since you’re not going to be able to take your enemies down this means that in each new area you’ll want and need to explore as much as you’re able so you understand the layout, also being sure to open any doorways and such as you’re able. This way when you inevitably need to trigger whatever it is that is in your way you’ll have some hope of being armed with a plan to make your escape.


While this can be compelling for the right audience that’s not to say the game isn’t without its faults. First and foremost is the double-edged sword of being dropped into an environment and situation with minimal direction. There are, no doubt, people who’ll be eager for the challenge of experimenting and taking the time to work out what must be done. That said, if you’re looking for something quick and exciting you’ll find Infernium to be a brand of hell for all of the wrong reasons. While I’m sure from the design side everything makes cohesive sense from the eyes of the person walking through it the only occasional hints at what is going on can be aggravating, though again I don’t doubt that’s part of the game design intended to leave you with an increased sense of unease.

While Infernium presents itself very well, has a certain unique sense of ambiance, and can certainly be conquered given careful observation, its trial-and-error nature and pacing will likely lead to polar opposite reactions in people. For people who enjoy the puzzle adventure aspect, exploring the spaces and working out an optimal path to success while staying a few steps ahead of doom it may scratch an itch. Unfortunately I would imagine for just about anyone else it will likely be an exercise in frustration and burn through the patience of people hoping for more immediate gratification. Just be sure to go into the experience with the proper expectations and you’ll improve your chances of enjoying it.


Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • In terms of visuals, sound, and experience it does a good job of establishing a feeling of dread and impending doom
  • Some clever level design, with areas working out as large environmental puzzles

Cons:
  • The pacing won’t be for everyone
  • A lack of direction and clarity in meaning can either be exciting or frustrating, depending on tastes