It’s rare nowadays to see developers bring back 80s era 8-bit video games. However, Berzerk Studio has such plans with their upcoming indie title Infernax, which draws heavy inspiration from old-school Castlevania games. Infernax is an adventure action platformer with puzzle elements that attempt to capture a moment from the NES era of gaming history. You take on the role of the renowned knight, Alcedor, as he discovers his homeland being plagued by dark magic after returning to it. It’s now up to you to rid your home of this unholiness and save your people.
Let’s get the most apparent aspect out of the way: Infernax looks as badass as it sounds. Right away, you are presented with beautifully hand-drawn pixel art that accentuates the unsightly and mutilated appearances of the monsters that afflict the lands. The goriness of the combat further complements the dark and dreary themes of the game, accompanied by heavy electric guitar and rock music that genuinely evokes nostalgia for the 1980s.
Because this game pays tribute to classic difficult Igavanias, it definitely isn’t a walk in the park. There are options, however: a casual mode that spawns you with all your equipment and experience should you die, as well as a hardcore mode that strips you of everything if you fall in battle and sends you back to square one. You gain experience from slaying enemies, which can be used to level up one of three stats: attack, health, and magic. Designated shrines that you can save and heal at are plentifully scattered throughout, so you never have to worry about losing too much progress. In addition, gold collected from enemies can be spent at shops in villages for potions, new magic abilities, or better gear.
In this preview demo, I got a taste of the morality testing feature with an infected individual asking me to execute him, and boy, did this get me hooked. If I granted him his wish, the game proceeded as usual, but if I chose to spare him of death, he transformed into a grotesque Lovecraftian creature that served as an unexpected first boss of the game. The impact of such decisions was enticing to see, and the game promises a lot of scenarios such as these, which serve as branching catalysts to multiple endings.
Level design is excellently crafted, with multiple paths to take and explore, though some are blocked off in true Metroidvania fashion. Enemy design and variety are plentiful, ranging from undead skeletons, green goblins, and bugs to deformed, fleshy abominations. Gameplay blends combat and platforming with a nice sprinkle of narrative storytelling to keep you engaged. Boss encounters are equal parts terrifying and exhilarating, with cosmic horrors hitting harder than a truck. It was nice to see fellow soldiers fight alongside me. Although they did little to no damage, they nonetheless made the game feel a tad bit cozier.
The demo was a great snippet of what the full game has to offer. I did run into one bug, though, where the game got stuck on the death screen and forced me to hard reboot the game. This is barely a game-breaking issue, though, and I look forward to the official release to see what other menacing atrocities await me.
Infernax is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC-via Steam sometime in Q1 of 2022.
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