March 12th, 2013 | By Tom Christiansen
Let’s get the ball rolling.
Quite honestly, the concept of rolling a ball around on the ground has not intrigued me since I learned to walk. So when developer Joe Wintergreen-Arthur, from Impromptu Games, reached out to me about checking out InFlux, I was more than a bit apprehensive. A quick Google search led me to the game’s Steam Greenlight page where I saw a number of screenshots featuring a blue ball rolling through various indoor and outdoor locations, all beautifully rendered. InFlux looked good, I gave it that much.
I started the trailer and listened as Jonathan Yandel’s mellow sountrack played as a glowing blue ball rolled around through the game’s outdoor environments. Then, something hypnotic happened: the trailer ended and I found myself struggling to recall anything I had been thinking before the trailer started. While watching the trailer I had completely zoned out and relaxed…and it felt great.
That’s when I knew I had to play InFlux.
As the game loaded up, I skimmed through the notepad file that worked as a disclaimer that the game wasn’t completely done, and there were still plenty of bugs to fixed. I took the list into consideration as InFlux booted up. The music was just as relaxing as it had been in the trailer, and after a short intro cinematic that simply showed the blue ball falling like a meteor from the sky, I found myself controlling the blue ball as I rolled it across a beach. InFlux provides no explanation as to why you’re a ball on the beach…other than what you see in the opening cinematic. Clearly, discovery is a major aspect of InFlux.
The controls are simple: WASD to get the ball rolling, the mouse controls the camera, left and right clicking triggers the ball’s repulse/attract feature that you can use to drag or push objects, and Space bar is used to charge up for extra bursts of speed. Everything felt totally natural, and while InFlux boasts the capability to use a Xbox 360 controller, I felt perfectly comfortable using the mouse and keyboard.
Starting on the beach, I navigated my way around the coastal area, through shallow water and around rock formations. The level’s design is relatively linear, but it remains open enough, in most areas, to allow you to explore around a bit. Exploring does pay off, as tucked away within the levels are small blue glowy-orbs that resemble fireflies. By rolling into these blue orbs, they become attracted to the ball, and will follow you through the rest of the level.
At the end of each zone, players find a glass box. If enough of the blue orbs have been gathered, the glass box will unlock, and players can go inside. This is essentially how the rest of the game plays out. Players roll through the lush landscapes looking for orbs to unlock the next glass box. Then they go in and solve the puzzle, and are teleported out, to a new region of InFlux’s world.
When players enter the glass cubes, it is as if they have been warped into another dimension. The beaches and forests vanish, and instead, everything is bright and pristine-looking, —very Aperture Science-feeling, except for all the windows. There are switches which can rotate the cube room around, and players must get the orange ball into the orange zone, to complete the glass box, and continue on through the island. Solving the boxes is not simply a matter of pulling the orange ball from one side, to the other. Players must align the orange ball to slide into the wall panels (which become the floor) when the room rotates around, bounce the ball up using air vents, and so on. So far it hasn’t been that difficult, but I have only played through about the first five boxes.
Once the puzzle box is completed, the ball warps out of there and drops down, back onto Earth.
Or is it Earth?
As I mentioned before, discovery is a big part of InFlux, and the drive to see just what’s around the next corner, is surprisingly strong. The experience as a whole, was incredibly relaxing. You are simply a ball, just rolling along a beach, or bouncing harmlessly down a cliff as the sun sets on the horizon. The music is perfect, the visuals are nice…everything just comes together beautifully.
I don’t see myself spending hours and hours with InFlux, it’s just not one of those games. It’s more of a relaxing experience, that happens to be fun…which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Currently, InFlux is vying for votes on Steam Greenlight, so check out what Impromptu Games’ has put together on their Steam Greenlight profile, and possibly drop them a vote, if you feel so inclined. Then visit the official website and follow the developer on Twitter.