Infernium is a game that categorizes itself as a survival horror version of Pac-Man, but after having spent thirteen hours with this game, it’s best to describe it as a walking simulator with a gimmick, collecting orbs of light to progress through the game. The point isn’t to belittle this game, especially since it’s good and entertaining, but a categorization such as “survival horror Pac-Man” will work against itself and possibly alienate potential players. Maybe the developers didn’t want to pigeonhole this game by simply saying that it’s a walking simulator, especially since many people look down on the usage of that term, but that’s essentially what it is.
Even if the game is heavily focused on survival horror and collecting orbs of light, a gameplay mechanic shared with Pac-Man, games are generally categorized by the broad genre that they fit into. There are examples of games being categorized as something ultra-specific, much like metroidvania games, but at the end of the day, the walking simulator elements of this game are more apparent than the others found in this game.
Infernium is a highly visual FPV game with crisp graphics highly reminiscent of Bioshock and Dishonored. Around 90% of its graphics are highly detailed, especially if you play this game on high to ultra-settings, but there are a few examples of incredibly rough looking textures. It’s few and far between, but it’s still very noticeable.
Your basic mechanics are consistent with what’s found in most FPV games and walking simulators. What’s unique about this game is that your right hand does most of the work in this game. Your left hand is also important in this game, but it’s only really used towards the end and even then, it doesn’t do as much as your right hand. With your right hand you mainly collect orbs of light that allow you to progress through the game and it also controls your dashing/teleporting.
Forcing you to collect as many orbs of light as possible yet limiting how much you can carry at a time is incredibly frustrating. It’s frustrating because it’s unclear whether or not there’s a fast travel system in this game, but it seems to require a lot of the orbs of light to be used. Since there’s no real way to determine if there was fast travel with what’s assumed to be this game’s fast travel system, it’s preferable to use the orbs of light to advance through the game and not potentially waste what’s already scarce.
Having already stated that collecting as many orbs of light is required and a big part of Infernium, you’d think that knowing how many have been collected and how many are left would be included in this game. It could’ve been featured as a collectible even if there’s no prize for collecting them all. At the very least, trying to challenge players to collect these orbs is enough incentive for some to prolong their time with this game. Who knows, maybe it just wasn’t thought of to include such a thing or the developers felt it was ill-fitting with their overall vision of this game.
What’s also a bit confusing is that collecting one orb of light doesn’t exactly equal one usage of your main ability’s energy. Sometimes you’ll have to collect many small orbs of light or a few large ones to be able to use your main ability. It changes as the game goes on because your ability’s meter goes from one use at a time to five. Once you have gained five usages, how long they last depends on you. You can use it once to unlock a door or area that needs only one use, or you can use it all at once to unlock something that needs five uses. It can be summed up as a sort of key system, but rather than gathering keys, you gather orbs of light.
As you progress through the game and collect certain items the range of your dashing/teleporting will extend, but in the beginning it’s very short. It’s interesting to notice that this game is a lot easier when you realize its main dashing mechanic is exploitable. The way that this mechanic can be exploited is that it goes from red to white to let you know that you can teleport to the area you’re aiming for. If you’re careful and willing to try it out, you can teleport onto walls/platforms that will allow you to skip ahead to areas that would’ve required a lot more work to get into. It’s also interesting that you’re able to dash through closing doors, even if there’s very little space and seeing this in action is very cool. At first this isn’t necessary, but later in the game you’re encouraged to do this.
A lot of emphasis is placed on being careful in this game, especially when it comes to dashing/teleporting. Precise dashing/teleporting can get frustrating, especially since it’ll lead to a lot of deaths. These deaths are mostly from dashing straight into an unseen enemy, which is preventable with the use of a limited photo mode that helps you scope areas/enemies out, and from falling off a high area or a platform into water/lava. It sounds silly, especially since you’re able to securely aim where you want to go, but it’s still possible to land in a hazardous area.
You must really think how you’re going to go up or down in whatever area you happen to be in, especially since you may end up stranded with death being your only way out. That sounds a bit morbid, but there’s no real way to revert to your most recent save or to a checkpoint, dying is the closest thing to that. What I mean is that once you’ve decided to go up or down a level, it’s difficult or even temporarily impossible to immediately go back from where you just came. Though this form of maneuvering is risky and confusing at first, it offers multiple ways of approaching advancement in this game and it could lead to creative solutions to the problems encountered in this game.
Infernium revolves around solving many puzzles. They range from easy to difficult and generally offer a great deal of variety. Still, even the most difficult puzzles are by nature very simple, but they’re made difficult by forcing you to evade enemies as you’re in the process of solving it. This is when the creative aspect of maneuvering in this game comes into use. The simplest puzzles in this game will consist of changing a number dial to match a number displayed somewhere in the immediate area, but it’s made difficult through the amount of enemies present. As a result of that, you’ll want to seek out the quickest/easiest route from point A to B.
To a certain extent you’re forced to figure things out on your own and that can be very gratifying.
To a certain extent you’re forced to figure things out on your own and that can be very gratifying. There are moments when the game will feature instructions, usually when a new mechanic is introduced, but even then, things can still be a bit unclear. The game’s difficulty makes your accomplishments feel much better and well earned. This was especially noticeable with one of the puzzles encountered in the game. It’s possible to avoid having to do this by having a good memory, but one thing that was unique to my playthrough was that it pretty much forced me to bust out a notepad to solve one of its puzzles.
While not having a very present soundtrack, Infernium features great sound design and a lot of ambient noises that add to the overall eerie/chilling atmosphere. This is especially very scary in the beginning. It doesn’t feature jump scares or anything like that, but the overall spooky setting and your vulnerability leaves you fearful of what’s out there. Depending on your location, whether it’s indoors, outdoors, in a cave, or in a castle, you’ll regularly hear the wind whistling, flowing water, and in general just about everything is audible. If you really want to enjoy this, play with headphones on because it’ll greatly enhance the experience.
Infernium involves an extraordinary amount of exploration through a world that can be described as a labyrinth within a labyrinth. It features a world that’s a lot larger than it initially appears to be and you’ll eventually notice just how tightly packed together everything is, most likely because the game’s level design is very maze-like. Some of its locations are caves, castles, large areas of water/lava surrounded platforms, and some ethereal places.
What’s good about the game’s size is that it’s not big open field huge, which can at times be dull. The overall basic level design is great and there are some instances of level interconnection, but on a large-scale level it’s very few and far between. Not every area has to be secretly connected to one another, but if you’re going to feature it more than once, you may as well have it spread out through the whole game and not simply towards the end of it. Because of this, some of the areas in the game are easy to get lost in and you’ll actively have to make note of “landmarks” to orient yourself, even indoors.
Despite consisting of limiting gameplay, Infernium has many different elements from other genres of video games. As much as I dislike comparing games to Dark Souls, especially since it’s done so often nowadays and since it’s used in such a cheap manner, it’s difficult to ignore how this game shares similarities with Dark Souls. Maybe it wasn’t done on purpose by the developers, but there’s enough similarities that they’re worth mentioning.
Infernium features a low-key story that’s only unveiled if you actively seek it out. The problem with games such as this one that have low-key stories is you either miss out on the story because you have no idea that it was there, or it takes too much effort to figure out what’s going on, so you end up just concentrating on the gameplay. One issue with this non-linear level/story is that it’s possible to advance in an area you shouldn’t be in yet, so you end up doing things out of order and you end up stuck not really knowing where to go or what to do.
Another issue with this is that Infernium features many elements found in the metroidvania genre. One main element of the metroidvania genre is having to backtrack once you’ve discovered new abilities/items. With these new abilities/items, you’re able to explore previously closed off/unreachable areas. This is usually done with the help of an interactive map that lets you know what hasn’t been visited yet and/or which item is needed where, but this isn’t presented clearly in Infernium.
There are maps in this game, but they’re very confusing to use. You can’t use them at any moment, much like in other games and they’re generally found when you least expect them. It’s also confusing that they’re arranged in such a way that you must have already been through the area to recognize how to use the map. As a result of this, there’s no real way to measure progress. You just keep going until you reach a new area or unlock a previously locked door. You also must remember areas you previously went through, which is difficult to do because there’s so many different places in this game and they all require different paths to get to.
The in-game “currency” you’ve previously amassed is available to you immediately after you’ve died, but these orbs of light are gone once you’ve used them to progress through the game. When they’re dropped, and you die, you can collect them immediately after, but they’re permanently gone once you died without getting them again. You’re much better off saving them for later use.
The interconnectivity of the levels is only made obvious well after you’ve moved away from them, and the overall nature of the game wants you to advance as much as possible until you reach the next checkpoint. This isn’t a specific feature found in Dark Souls, but the overall nature of that game practically forces you to play this way. You try to progress as much as possible to the next checkpoint and once you’ve made it, you investigate everything that came before it.
Up to this point it hasn’t been mentioned, but Infernium doesn’t have an auto save system. Though somewhat difficult to get used to, especially with how games are nowadays, a game that doesn’t feature frequent auto saves can be refreshing. The reason for this is that it’s challenging to make every save/visit to a checkpoint count. If anything, not including this feature in the game adds to the overall dreadful feeling you get while playing, but at times it’ll work against you.
It’s incredibly easy to die in this game, mainly because a single attack/touch will kill you. There are no real offensive abilities and just about the only thing you can do is run away. This is just another example of this game’s very limited gameplay. It’s also a bit puzzling that with all the light/fire-based mechanics found in this game, you’d think you’d be able to use it against the enemies in this game. At first being this defenseless is very frustrating, but you end up discovering that this game is challenging, yet fair. The inevitable deaths that you’ll amass in this game are usually brought on by a mistake you’ve made and not because the game is cheap.
Rather than directly dealing with enemies, you must use the environment to your advantage. Maze-like levels to escape from enemies (memorization helps with this), special red lines drawn on the floor that enemies can’t cross, going through level separating portals (which act to load/reset areas), and jumping to another platform away from the enemy are pretty much your only forms of defense.
On the subject of enemies, there’s really only three types in this game. The first is a fully cloaked figure that endlessly chases you until you’re dead by being touched or you lose them. This enemy has at least three color variants (blue, red, white). The second is a mass of light that vaguely looks like a fallout robot that chases you around. Once it’s in your immediate area, it stops, gives you maybe three seconds to run away and then explodes. The explosion is atypical because it looks more like lightning bolts that are only deadly if you’re within their range. And finally, the third is an invisible enemy that’s only visible in the rain. This kind of enemy leads to some moments that will be interesting, challenging, and frustrating.
For the most part, Infernium was an enjoyable game that brought me many hours of entertainment. Still, it comes off as if it’s confused with what kind of game it wants to be. Attempting to balance it being a survival horror along with forced large world exploration doesn’t fully work. It’s hard to confidently explore a world when you’re also incredibly underpowered, weak, and cowering as you attempt to safely make it to the next area/checkpoint. There are games out there that work well with each respective genre as its own thing, but I feel as if in Infernium it’s contradictory and sort of cancels each other out. You’d think that a game that has such a weak character would be much smaller, kind of as a way to balance itself out.
As a solution to this issue, the developers included numerous options that can be altered to match the game to your preferred playstyle. You can slow down enemies, you can completely remove them from the game, and you can eliminate permanent deaths. It’s also worth noting that being able to change the settings of the game without having to restart it is a godsend. It’s a welcomed feature because this game is a roller coaster ride of emotions. You’ll easily go from annoyance to enjoyment in a single playthrough and at times you’ll want to just finish playing the game. Other games would force you to restart from the beginning if you want to change the main options in the middle of a playthrough, that would simply be torturous.
How you play/enjoy this game depends on what kind of player you are, but I feel as if it’s better with enemies off. A slow and meticulous player would probably enjoy this game with enemies on, but I could also see this kind of player still having to slow down the enemy’s movements in certain areas/difficult situations. There’s enough in this game to keep you occupied and having enemies chasing you as you attempt to progress just ends up feeling like a hindrance.
I generally hate making games easier or doing something differently than what should be the normal experience, but having to finish playing this game in a timely manner and the way it’s meant to be played is frustrating as hell on a time limit. Still, having played it for around 11 hours with everything set on normal pretty much means I experienced everything this game has to offer. Playing this game has made me understand why other reviewers will play games on the easiest setting.