As I kneel before a shrine, offering up a prayer to “quell the pain of battle,” all I can really think of is, “Dang, wish this didn’t clean all the demon blood of my character.” It wasn’t that big of an issue as I knew I’d be once again covered in little red pixels denoting the carnage I was enacting upon these evil-doers. Infernax is a love letter to the 2d side-scrolling platformers of old, and it’s hard to not fall equally in love with it. I confess I don’t have any nostalgia for the games that the developers so clearly do, but who am I to complain about experiencing a game built upon decades of refinements and updates? So there I was, finding myself standing up from my prostration before the shrine, charging once more into the breach.
Right off the bat, Infernax doesn’t actually tell you how to charge into the breach. The only explicit tutorial is “A to Jump.” Granted, that early into the game, the only other control is “X to Attack,” but I know some people don’t quite like when controls are not laid out, so I felt it fair to mention. Personally, I quite enjoyed how it meshed with the in media res story of a war-weary feudal Lord returning home to find it overran by demons. They explain the controls of new abilities as you unlock them (although I did find out that the control stick is a much easier alternative for the “super jump”) and leave the spells and potion inventory to the UI. All this adds to the nostalgia the game is seeped in, but with it all being so simplistic, it really does just add on to the quality of the game as opposed to anything else.
Another thing I’d like to note, as I think these deserve more attention and credit when included, is that Infernax has a lighting accessibility option for anyone who might be affected by flashing lights. Including accessibility options will always be a good thing! With accessibility usually comes difficult discourse as well, with Infernax offering a Classic mode and a Casual mode, the only difference being that Casual allows you to keep your gold and XP gained from the last time you saved.
The gameplay itself is super simple, as most 2d platformers are, but it feels crisp and responsive. The combat is a mixture of “Hit with X” and “Jump with A and then Hit with X” every now and then, adding in a “Crouch with Down and Hit with X,” but as a bit of a minimalist myself, this is all the combat I needed to make it an enjoyable romp through the land of Upel. Being a platformer, the map and dungeon layouts are arguably more important than the combat itself, and despite the difficulty jumping up immensely after the third dungeon, I found myself still being engaged and drawn in enough to keep on coming back to nail that one jump I just kept failing. Anyone who has talked to me about video games before know that there are two things I don’t really enjoy: hard platforming and puzzles, so it really is a testament to the game that Berzerk Studio put together for me to be so thoroughly charmed by the game to stick with it, where I would have normally put down any other game.
Part of the charm is a lot of the small touches they’ve put in. There are a few story choices littered throughout the game that add just enough consequence to create a level of extra investment. I also particularly enjoyed the moment when I accidentally robbed the church. I chose to donate a small amount of gold to a priest and immediately afterwards ran past the priest, passing by the donation chest, which then forced it open, returning my donation tenfold. The priest was NOT pleased. But by far, the most affecting choice was how to level up. You gain XP through defeating enemies with each enemy-type having a set amount of XP, and when you hit the amount needed for the upgrade, you get to choose from upgrading damage, health, or mana. I’m greedy, so I threw caution to the wind and upgraded damage every time I could, but the prices of the upgrades ramp up REAL quick. I’m not much of a magic-user, but I constantly found myself running out of mana for the few spells I did use because I just did not respect the mana upgrades.
In conclusion, Infernax is excellent, and you should try it. It’s a relatively short game, refusing to outstay its welcome, but what a warm welcome it is. The gameplay is simple, not always easy, but never so difficult that it’s offputting. The scaling of the gameplay does bring somewhat of a concern, but if you’ve made it far enough to hit the spike, you’re too far in to even want to turn back anyway.