Have you ever thought about what happens after life? Do you believe in heaven or hell? Normally, people think of heaven as a place with many things included. Somehow like an eternal trip on a cruise ship through the sky. You got on board and as the ship sails away, you are stuck on it. But why fear when everything is perfect on there?
A trip on a cruise is not very nice in bad weather. When the sun is shining, everything is better. It is dry, it is warm, maybe hot. Speaking of hot… When picturing hell, people often think of a dark place with raging flames. Ready to burn you away and the sins of your pitiful life. But what if you awake in hell, and it is actually not a cave and you are not surrounded by fire?! In developer Carlos Coronado’s title, you will encounter hell in another, not so common way.
Welcome to the harbour of hell in Infernium.
After starting Infernium for the first time, I had no idea what I had to expect besides “a horror game with survival elements”. And I was not getting any more clues after that. I found myself on a rock surrounded by blue and a beautiful mix of yellow, pink and white. Within this peaceful scenery, there were some outcroppings of other rocks as well as something I assumed was some sort of castle.
Investing some time to look up a description of the story for this game, I found an interesting fact that caught my attention. Infernium is supposed to be Pac-Man in hell. Being puzzled by that fact, I wondered how this would be realised in a horror game. But somehow, I get the idea of you being chased by a cloak through the various stages the environment has to offer.
Similar with Pac-Man, you are not provided with a story. You really do not need one here. Although, in Infernium, I was wishing for some little bits and pieces along the way. When starting my playthrough, I was provided with two types of objectives in this game: how to dash and how to harvest light from lamps that somehow resembled the one I got from IKEA some time ago.
And that is it. Why do I harvest this light? Why can I dash instead of run? Am I a boy or a girl? And why are floating towels, sorry, cloaks, chasing me? If you seek answers to these questions, you have to play the game. And when you do, you actually gather information and get a story.
Scattered around all of the places, you will find entries from a certain Marina (not a certain octopus lady, I assume). They all look like diary entries. You learn that she went on a trip along with four friends to a place in Spain called Valle de Tella. On the internet, Marina learned that witches used to live there as they had decided to settle there. Mikel and Denis, Marina’s boyfriend, are scuba divers, and you will find information about it in the diary entries here and there. This is certainly from the experience of the developer himself as he is a scuba diver, too.
To not spoil anything, I will not proceed any further story wise only providing you with that fact that the group of five friends find out about Infernium themselves along the way. The rest is for you to discover.
This section is going to be not that long. In Infernium, you have no BGM at all. The only time you hear some tunes are in hectic situations. If an enemy is on your track, you will hear an eerie tune that makes you instantly uncomfortable along with its creepy sounds. When listening closely to this tune while escaping, you get a pretty good idea of how dangerously close these cloaks are since you are not able to turn around to check. Well, you could, but I highly suggest that you do not. Not at least if you see some red flame-like streaks coming from the direction the enemy is chasing you alongside your screen.
The sound effects are on point. No matter if you are opening doors or hear an elevator approaching, Coronado knew what he was doing here. Sound is an important factor to scare people by making them believe that something is coming even though there really is nothing at all. Of course, this also factors in with the creatures after your life.
If a wild towel approaches you and is dangerously close of wiping you away, the music is louder and richer. You will hear the creepy tone of what I understand to resemble a large amount of crawling bugs under an unbearable screech and is louder than if it is away. If you outrun your opponent, the music dies down while slowly losing these sound effects.
Speaking of losing, the creepy tune will wear on you quickly. The first time you hear it, it was very intimidating, but it becomes tedious after encountering several cloaks or glowing, walking bombs in the shape of a weird man (so-called Exploders).
Visuals & Performance
Honestly, I am not over exaggerating in saying that the environment is beautiful. Made with the Unreal Engine, you can clearly see a difference when you explore the area. From breathtaking waterfalls to a terrific beach, everything looks stunning. With 17 levels in total, you clearly get a lot of variety regarding level design.
Many aspects of Infernium play on your fear, and the visual design is no exception. From creepy castles to narrow pathways, it makes an impression on you. It sure enhances the feeling that you have lost control of the situation when you are not provided with an open area which ensures your escape to be a success. But even in the more open parts of the game, you cannot feel safe all the time.
I experienced no crashes or any frame drops when playing Infernium in any modes. It looks gorgeous in both dock mode as well as in handheld!
Time to take a closer look at what exactly is going on in Infernium. You start off with enough time to test your abilities. Those are limited to dashing and harvesting the light orbs. On your right hand, you see something on the pointing finger that looked like a nail to me first. This is your “finger health bar”. Seriously. If it stops glowing, you are out of energy and not able to operate any switches or activate a fireplace. No worries, though. There are plenty of orbs around that provide you with more light you utilize as energy.
To proceed further in the game, you obtain a full hand of harvesting fingers. Beginning with one, you will find four others along the way. But what is the point? Well, if you have them all, you are able to activate fire pits or to open light barriers. Next to those, you will find a circle with all of the needed nails. Sorry, fingers. Why break these light curtains? To open shortcuts. And believe me, you need these shortcuts…
Infernium uses a Permadeath system. The 25 glowing spaces in the purgatory (the place you wake up after you died) are all the chances you have. If you face death for the 26th time, you cannot escape from the purgatory using the well in the centre. This fountain will dry out, and the big door in that room on the other end will be open. You can enter it to go directly to the Black Fountain area to make an attempt to “finish” the game. Or you can actually gain back some lives if you activate Light Pits.
You can do that either on levels called the Ice Lands or The Sun. Yes, The Sun. To be able to go to it, you need at least three harvesting fingers, though.
To pick up the actual topic a little bit more, you might be provided with 25 lives, or possible deaths you can slip through if you like to see it that way, but you can get every one of them back. You “just” have to gain them back and then you can go back where you had left off…
Checkpoint system aka The Frustration System
… or not. Honestly, the checkpoint system in Infernium made me go insane. I think it was intentional to do so because obviously, you seemed to be bad at some point in your life and therefore went straight to hell to suffer.
Although going over and over through the (yes, I admit it again) very beautiful scenery, it just gets frustrating. At one point, you do not care if you fall into a pit, if you get touched by a little tiny corner of the evil cloak of evilness, or if you die in any other possible way. You just want to continue to play. Which you can, but you have to go a long way to reach the last checkpoint. After you die, you go to the purgatory, then start at the last checkpoint and make all the way to where you were sent to death. You can pick up the lost light you left behind there, but at some point, I could not care. I needed a break.
Taking breaks is not allowed for sinners! In Coronado’s game, you cannot catch a breath. You cannot set your life (or whatever it is in Infernium) on hold. You have to remain in the game. Completely vulnerable. Self-reflecting how I heard this game makes you stay on the edge of your seat at all times, this might be another reason to underline that point. I get it, but… I have to use the bathroom from time to time! I would have passed this if the checkpoint system would not be this frustrating. Taking your fear with you in real life when you leave Infernium? Gimme a break, please!
Discover a New Hobby: Nature Photography
A photo mode to capture the nice level design is a nice addition that is perfect for holding onto some of that wonderful scenery for all eternity. But, instead of just taking a picture for your Infernium album to show it to your family and brag about your trip to hell, you can actually cheat with it. While I played around with the feature, I quickly discovered that you have control of the camera in a restricted area around you. Going too far off will lead you to a black wall with flames occasionally dancing around on it which blocks you from going any further.
But psst, with that option, you can actually peek around corners…! This might be tempting after you had lost a lot of lives, but will absolutely ruin some points in the game for you.
Quick question: Do you not mind starting slow in the early game and constantly questioning yourself more and more instead of getting answers? Did you say yes? Well then, with £19.99 GBP or $24.95 USD Infernium has a good price… if you are willing to play it to the end and explore everything.
Is Infernium now worth your hard earned cash? Yes. And No. This game is certainly not for everybody. You should get this game if you do not need a story that motivates you to go on and if you are patient like a nun. If you are fine with having a game that starts slow and feels like a mystery, then go for it. You have 17 levels to explore and even a New Game+ mode which is available from the outset of the game. Enemies you pass will be higher in number and some of them even earlier available as before. It’s basically hard mode.
Carlos Coronado’s passion was visible in many aspects in the game and outside. But, unfortunately, Infernium obviously lacks storytelling which people like me need to not lose interest in a game. You start the game with a big question mark over your head, it leaves you with it on your way through, and I saw few points to actually help solve it. For the sake for the review, I continued playing. If it was not for SwitchWatch, frustration would have won over curiosity and my nagging ambition. But that is “just” me. So Infernium gets a 6/10 from me. Not for everyone, but playable and a pass for some people.
* A review copy of this game was kindly provided by Carlos Coronado.
Bold, unusual game concept
Frustrating checkpoint placement
Story never materialises
One hit death is slightly annoying
Creepy atmosphere is destroyed by playing it all again after dying