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October 2021


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Barnaque
Release Date: July 3, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Infini'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 11, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Manipulate the camera to change your perspective and discover new abilities, characters, and mazes. Think outside the box in a multiverse of perspective-shifting puzzles.

Hylics, LSD, ParanoiaScape, and Vangers are a few games that resemble expressionist paintings and similar works of art. Whether eschewing expected game mechanics or traditional graphical designs, the titles flew under most players' radar. It doesn't take long to get that impression when looking at Infini, and while it does everything to place itself among those oddball titles, it also features some clever gameplay.

The story is your first clue that Infini is going for something far out. You play the role of Hope who, at the beginning of the game, falls from a spaceship above a planet. You eventually discover that Hope has lost their wings, and with the help of others, they go on a journey to reclaim everything else that they lost.

The characters keep things bizarre. It starts off with everyone having concepts for names, such as Memory, Peace and War. The developer has some more fun with that in obvious ways, such as Memory being an elephant and War having a rifle for a head, and nonsensical ways, such as Poetry being a dog. The storytelling is where things take a turn, as the game doesn't adhere to a linear tale. The game jumps timelines so often that you need to pay very close attention if you want to make sense of it. It isn't that difficult to follow once you get used to it, but the unconventional approach weeds out gamers who enjoy something more traditional.

The presentation is perhaps the most striking notion that the game has embraced the strange. The music doesn't seem to go for any tone other than bewilderment, and it maintains that from beginning to end. The exception is the title screen, which is such a grating tune that many would be tempted to turn down the volume and keep it that way. Every character is voiced, but it is a cacophony of nonsense delivered at various overlapping pitches, though their infrequency prevents people from muting it altogether.

Graphically, Infini is a collection of blurred-out stock photographs with normal animals and crude drawings of people done in a paper cutout style. It'll immediately remind you of someone from the late 1990s trying to emulate the style of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" but with more absurdity and flashing lights. You'll get it when you see Hope burst forth from a living creature that has immediately been turned to stone. It's strange and captivating since so few games, even in the indie space, go for this niche style.

With a weird presentation and an even weirder story, it falls on the gameplay to attract those who aren't drawn in by the game's uniqueness. Luckily, what is here is deceptively solid. At its base, the game has you guiding Hope toward an exit portal located somewhere in the area. While there are a few levels that deviate from this in the later stages of the game, this is your one consistent goal through most of the title.

It is a simple enough goal, but the world operates under a few interesting rules. First, the game operates under old arcade game rules where the screen edges are warp zones. Go to the left edge, and you'll appear on the right side, while moving to the bottom places you on the top. Second, you're always falling toward the bottom of the screen, so until you get through a significant portion of the game, you're always in motion. Third, touching anything except for special objects or the exit portal will kill you — and that means anything from birds and fish to inanimate objects like walls. Lastly, the game has an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. No matter where something is in the world, if it isn't visible on the screen, it doesn't exist.

In addition to those rules, Hope has several abilities to navigate the world. You can either speed up or slow down Hope's descent. Once you gain your wings, you can fight against your fall by flying upward or hovering. You can also change the camera zoom to a certain degree to make things appear or disappear according to the world's other established rules. Eventually, you can even move into and out of the backgrounds as the game adopts some 3D properties while retaining the 2D appearance.

The rules and abilities work well with one another because the level design for these spatial puzzles is so well put together. You get all of your abilities in a piecemeal fashion, and the game does a great job of easing you into using each ability before chucking you into some real brain-teasers. The automatic retry with no loading is perfect, since you'll toy around with the mechanics often, thus encouraging you to try out traversal ideas to see if it works. The solution often seems ingenious when you discover it instead of groan-worthy, and while the constant increase in difficulty will make you quit often, it doesn't take long before you return with a fresher mind and realize the ways the developer wanted to play with the game's use of space.

There are a few gameplay issues that will cause you to do more trial and error than expected. As nice as the backgrounds are, the colors sometimes blend in too well with some of the foreground. It doesn't happen with the big walls, but it is problematic when you have to avoid a bunch of one-tile squares that are clustered together. Another issue comes from the zoom, which is supposed to be centered around you, but it sometimes deviates to create scenarios where some walls might appear before they should. Don't expect much replayability out of the main campaign once you're done, unless you want to go for the extra pick-ups to decipher a message that appears throughout your journey.

As stated in the beginning of the review, Infini rewards those who can accept its oddities. The story and presentation aren't going to be accepted by the masses, but if you're up for something that you likely haven't seen before and want to try out some atypical puzzles, give Infini a shot.

Score: 7.5/10

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