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Infinity Runner

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By Bobfish31-07-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
MrJenssen (editor)
Infinity Runner

The Defence

Developer:
Wales Interactive
Publisher:
Wales Interactive
Genre:
Action, Indie
Release Date:
14-07-2014

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
1 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

In the far flung future, in a far flung armpit of the universe, the immense Infinity, once a testament to Human engineering, is falling apart. A one-hundred and fifty mile long, intergalactic city. Packed to the gills with science labs and millions of people just itching to find a new planet and go straight to colonising. Once. Now...there’s a werewolf on board. Oh dear.

The Trial

You awaken, naked, disoriented and with a dulcet, female voice echoing in your head. But, don’t worry, you’re not hallucinating. Riley, as the owner of the voice is called, is a real person, and t’was she who released you. Precisely why, well, that’s just going to have to wait until you have a moment to catch your breath. Right now, you need to get off this floating coffin. By running. Fast. Really fast. And, seriously, fast enough that you can bash your own skull open by running into a wall.

Yeah.

Peekaboo, I seeee yooooouuu.

Peekaboo, I seeee yooooouuu.

Now, it does take quite a large helping of suspension of disbelief to be willing to accept that. Not only that someone would be dumb enough to run full force into a wall, but that they could do it fast enough to literally kill themselves. Conveniently, that’s about as large a stretch as believing that there’s a space ship with an interior of more than thirty-three thousand cubic miles. And a planet that is populated entirely by werewolves. So hey, just go with it.

Trying to pin Infinity Runner (no relation to the iOS game) down becomes rather difficult actually. It was radically different from what I expected. The early tidbits we were given suggested, to me, a probably 3rd person platformer with parkour elements. What we actually got...uhm, I guess you could call it a rhythm game, just, without the music. Well, that’s not quite right, as there is music, really bloody good music as it happens, it just has no bearing on the layout of the levels.

Levels themselves, in the campaign at least, are pre-set. Which is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, it makes completing the game on higher difficulty settings much simpler, as you can simply practice on the lower settings until you have everything memorised. On the other, it strips away any kind of long-term replayability. Though, that’s only a minor complaint, as there are a whole slew of other gameplay modes, both single and multi-player, that give not only infinite, randomly generated levels, but also a greater variety of environments than the campaign.

Fear not, I have buns of steel.

Fear not, I have buns of steel.

Gameplay itself is incredibly simple, which is definitely a good thing, considering how much of the game relies on rapid reaction times. The campaign may allow you to memorise the track, but the rest does not, so you have to pay close attention to what’s coming and know when to jink left, or jump and so on. There are also sporadic QTEs which...they become a little dull to be honest. After a little practice you can tell precisely what the button combo will be by the layout of the enemies ahead of you. All of these, you see, are combat interactions. Which look pretty cool, don’t get me wrong, but are just this side of breaking the flow.

Thankfully, apart from the final moments of the campaign, they are usually only two or three button presses, and usually only come once in a particular section of a map, which tends to be right before, or right after a checkpoint. So you either won’t go back to it if you mess up, or will face it immediately, thus getting it out of the way. The final one is significantly longer and...urgh, it becomes annoying really quickly. So much so that I ultimately resigned myself to completing the entire section multiple times and making notes of the order the button presses came in. Good thing the levels are only a couple minutes each then.

Beyond that, the game looks amazing. It’s not a benchmark game, that’s for sure. But it is clear that Wales Interactive, who were a mobile developer not so very long ago, have learned significantly from their first PC outing. The leap in complexity between this and Master Reset is strikingly obvious. Where the former was artistically striking, Infinity is technically impressive as well. The environments are well detailed, enough that you can make out details despite the (literally) break-neck speed you go dashing by at. Whilst the lighting and texture variety is genuinely staggering.

Yeah man, everyone wants the D.

Yeah man, everyone wants the D.

The plot, such as it is, is decidedly on the light side. With the only real narrative developments coming between levels when you have a short plot dump from Riley. Most of it serving to do little more than add flavour to the universe. It isn’t until pretty much the very end that an actual plot comes into play. Which is only barely teased at, just before ending with a ‘to be continued’. Having said that, what little is there is actually quite interesting, and it does make sense that you would have more important things to worry about. You’re being chased by a frikkin’ werewolf on a spaceship that’s falling apart!

Riley herself is an enigmatic, and curious, individual. She reveals almost nothing about herself, and the voice work is...interesting. I personally found her to be instantly engaging. She does not sound, at all, like your typical, big budget, Hollywood method actor. She sounds like a regular, everyday British woman that you could meet at the local Asda (Walmart) any day of the week. That made her infinitely more relatable, though it seems many do not share my opinion. Hater’s gonna’ hate I guess.

The real star of the show, however, is the music. Whilst each section has a unique visual design, keeping the honestly extremely limited environmental hazards feeling fresh simply by changing the way they look. The music, in each area, dominates everything, and not because it’s overpowering. Each section of the ship has its own feel, which is both encapsulated and controlled by the superb, techno soundtrack. It put me strongly in mind of the 1970s classic Silent Running. Which is amusing, because there’s an achievement with that name. Which you unlock by turning the in game sounds off. That has to go down as one of the most inventive achievements to date surely.

Dance with me handsome boy.

Dance with me handsome boy.

Sadly, there is currently a bug still affecting a notable number of players which prevents them from connecting to, or even finding, multiplayer servers. Wales have already responded to this and made at least one attempt (at time of writing) to rectify the issue, but it persists for the time being, which left me unable to experience that aspect of the game. Though the gameplay modes are still available for single play, which makes most of them much less engaging. But at least allows you to practice your skills to your heart’s content.

The Verdict

It’s unfortunate that the multiplayer remains unavailable for some, as this is clearly where the game really shines. Though Wales have already demonstrated they will continue to work on it until it is fixed. Ultimately, what you have here is a somewhat flawed, but thoroughly enjoyable space romp that takes itself just seriously enough to be enjoyably silly, whilst having enough subtext to be thought provoking.

Case Review

  • Premise: Werewolf in space dude. Just go with it.
  • Variety: Oodles and oodles of areas to explore...well, half notice as you run past at least.
  • Length: The campaign is a couple hours max, but there are various other modes that are endless.
  • QTEs: Awkwardly out of place, but mercifully short and unchanging.
  • Story: Honestly, there really isn’t one until the game ends. But there’s promise of a sequel so...
4
Score: 4/5
Wales Interactive are rapidly improving and will only continue to get better.

Appeal

Infinity Runner is a hard game to pin down. On paper, it looks like a first person Temple Run clone for the PC. In practice, however, it’s a fast paced memory-and-reflex-testing game that provides a nearly frustrating challenge with the smallest trickle of a story to keep you playing.  You wake up on a collapsing spaceship, the Infinity, and must run your way out of there like a startled rabbit. Your goal is to get to the elevator on the other end of each level while avoiding or fighting everything that stands in your way. The mystery deepens as it becomes apparent that a creature from ancient legend is stalking the Infinity, and that you are of the same species, and that both of you were being researched aboard the ship. The story isn’t particularly well written or acted, but it’s interesting enough to keep you retrying the level you’re stuck on so you can receive the next part of the unfolding narrative.

The gameplay presents a particularly frustrating, yet simple challenge. Each level has a specific path, riddled with lasers, toxic waste, breaking machinery, and guards specifically hanging around to ensure that none of the research subjects escape. The result of all this is that you must jump, duck, dodge, weave, and fight your way through. The control scheme for each is easy to grasp, and the game is good at introducing challenges over the course of the story. Fights involve small QTE sections that you can insta-fail, but they aren’t particularly challenging as long as you’re paying attention. The checkpoint system is generous, however, you’re only given a certain amount of lives for each run (based on the difficulty setting), and many of the obstacles appear rapidly, require extremely precise timing, are hard to intuit on the first try, or a combination of all three. The result of this is a serious case of ‘do it again stupid’ for many levels - particularly if you’re not as quick on the response times, and as the challenge ramps up.

Infinity Runner looks pretty, and all of the different areas of the ship are unique, and feel like they’re corridors and components on a space-faring vessel - even if it seems to be mostly corridors without actual useful rooms for the most part. Unfortunately the default settings leave the game looking very dark, and while there are gamma correcting options, it would have been nicer to not have to delve into the options menu just for that. Animations look a little stilted, especially for a first person game, and the general speed of the gameplay managed to induce minor motion sickness while playing at a traditional screen. The music is decent though, alternatively fast paced and atmosphere building depending on the needs of the story. The game is also quite short - depending on how well you can react you’ll probably finish the game in 2 hours or less - and while there are freeplay options, it’s just more of the same without the context.

3
Score: 3/5

Appeal

Before playing Infinity Runner you absolutely must adjust your graphical settings. I found this out the hard way when I allowed the game to run on high and then proceeded to have frame rate issues as a result. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my first play of Infinity Runner was extremely frustrating; sloppy frame rate can be the kiss of death for a game that relies so heavily on quick reactions and split second decisions. And on top of that, instead of dying upon impact with obstacles, my runner was glitching through walls having to restart the entire level.

These issues disappeared when I lowered the graphical settings and subsequently actually started to have fun with the game. Even on the low, Infinity Runner doesn’t look bad; you won’t notice what visual blemishes there are as the gameplay lends itself particularly well to not drawing your attention to these. That said character animations and lip synching are noticeably awkward when you do slow down for a bit. As for sound, Riley’s delivery makes her instantly likeable even though her dialogue clearly marks her out as not entirely trustworthy. Due to the game’s generous checkpoints and quick iteration times, her dialogue has also been designed to be brief and to the point in order to minimise how sick you’ll get of hearing her say the same thing over and over. The soundtrack is enjoyable and sets the pace of gameplay well though after your fiftieth run, its repetitiveness will likely begin to get on your nerves.

The game has two modes with challenges to complete and collectibles up for grabs in both. The story mode relies extremely heavily on rote-style memorisation. It presents a number of seemingly divergent paths but after dying a lot and repeatedly replaying certain sections, one realises that the game only presents the illusion of choice and is actually very linear. However the arcade mode is totally randomised for those wanting a truer test of their skills (and, I’m not going to lie, it did play a lot like Temple Run on iOS). Both modes feature fast paced, high-speed action, requiring quick reactions and even quicker wits. Now I’ve got that out of the way, there’s only one thing left to say: RUN.

3
Score: 3/5
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