History has been made, folks, and Wales Interactive is the catalyst. While I may have joked about it in the past, never before has a game actually induced motion sickness and nausea in me. I mean, I have played and loved many a first person game, including Mirror’s Edge, a game famous for causing these issues. Well, it has finally happened. Infinity Runner has won the prize: the first game to cause true physical discomfort in me. Congratulations, Wales! Your prize will be sent via mail. Be careful, the box might be dripping.
Before moving further, I would like to note that I was only able to make it to the second level of the second part before giving up. My initial play was a half hour before I absolutely had to take a break. On return, I could only stomach another ten minutes before calling it quits. Apologies to the reader, I love you but I cannot put myself through anymore of this knowing that my desktop tower is not water tight and that the warranty on my video card does not cover half-digested pasta chunk damage. Thus, take everything else I have to say with an understanding that later levels might be different.
To give credit where credit is due, I appreciate what is attempted here. Infinity Runner is a first person take on the “runner” genre (think Temple Run) with a sci-fi setting and none of the free-to-play nonsense getting in the way. The character is always moving forward. If you do not turn at an intersection in time, you run face first into a wall and that’s a death. If you do not dodge to the left, right, or center as needed, that’s a death. If you do not slide yet another piece of ceiling collapsing in the same way that the last one did? Oh, brother: you better believe that’s a death. (Or paddling, if you thought I was trying to hide the fact that I stole this joke structure from The Simpsons.) In exchange for a reasonable seven dollar asking price, the gamer gets a fully voiced campaign chock full of collectibles, an arcade mode, and a multiplayer offering. A good, solid attempt was made here. I respect the developers for that. There are some major misses found in the package, though.
First, the most important thing for a reflex oriented game such is this would be controls. The default is simply lacking all around. Now, Infinity Runner does have the expected mouse/keyboard set up in addition to game pad support. Put down the mouse and pick up the pad if you are going to attempt this. The keyboard and mouse controls felt, for a lack of a better word, spongy. Movement across the x axis felt slower with this compared to the game pad alternative, and moving the mouse in the direction that you want the character to turn feels unnatural when character momentum cannot be controlled. The default pad layout is a bit off, too. If you are using an Xbox 360 controller, jump and slide are mapped to the right and left bumpers. Moving on the X axis is on the left stick and turning is on the right. Quick note to all developers: on PC, don’t use the bumpers for primary actions. Stick with the triggers if you are wanting to use shoulder inputs. ‘Kay? Kay.
The plot lends humor to the proceedings, both intentional and not so much. The character is woken from a thirty year cryo-sleep to find himself on an immense starship. He is then directed by the game’s psychic exposition cannon with an extremely unfortunate hair style to run. Ladies and gentlemen, does our hero take this to heart. He runs. He runs so far away. As this is set in space, day and night have no real meaning, so I can’t vouch if his running was done both night and day. Since I played him, though, and had the aforementioned issues, I can state with authority that he couldn’t get away. (If that song is stuck in your head, I have done my job.)
The thing is, while speed is a factor, I do not understand why a brisk walk couldn’t be used in many cases as he made his way through this poorly laid out ship. I mean, it’s not like he knows where he is going. Nothing is chasing him. In fact, when he does enter a room with biological enemies, he seems to be the one doing the chasing of those poor souls (via quick time events.) It would certainly alleviate the instant deaths to be earned because he ran face first into a wall when he meant to turn. That fact that he turns out to be a werewolf renders this entire exercise even more nonsensical. Are the walls lined with invisible silver spikes? I mean, it’s freaking werewolf, here. Also, why go through all of this trouble bio-engineering a weapon with such an obvious flaw? The mind boggles…
A strong effort was made on the graphics. No one will ever describe them as eye candy, but neither are they nondescript blobs that barely resemble anything. They are certainly passable for a budget game from an indie studio, and much better than yet another Unity engine store asset binge-a-thon. There seems to be a notable lack of heft during the enemy encounters. As previously mentioned, these are won simply by entering the on screen “win” code and moving on. The appearance of brutality was attempted, but I was mostly left thinking that these folks must be made of dry rotted plywood as their murderer can be done in by a wall.
You notice that I can’t get past the dying on a wall thing? That’s because it’s bloody ridiculous. If anyone else takes a crack at this type of game, try this instead. Something is chasing you, be it an evil spirit, guards, or an overly amorous Tom Sizemore. If the player doesn’t take a corner correctly, they lose some momentum but carry on, allowing the pursuers to get close. “Perfect” turns allow them to get further ahead. It would reduce frustration and add an extra layer to the game.
With all of this said, I think it’s pretty clear that I do not recommend Infinity Runner as a game. I like what was attempted here, even to the point that I was interested in this one before I even got the review assignment. Originally, I was considering giving this one a score of three out of five due to the honest attempts at quality made. I reconsidered when I realized that a constipated man does not take a dump just because he tried really, really hard. This caused a score adjustment…
Oh, and as for the qualifier of not recommending it as a game? I think it would make a remarkable preliminary test to check for inclinations to motion sickness.