‘Inferno+’ Review – Controlled Frenzy
By jingo, another bundle.
Yes, RadianGames has jumped on the gravity-defying freight train and decided to release four full-fledged games at once, all for the nifty price of $11.99. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at each component of the smashingly titled Quadtastic Launch Collection, weighing up each individual game as separate, stand-alone products before judging the merits of the bundle itself as a collective entity.
We’ll start by delving into the dazzling and stylish Inferno+, a twin-stick shooter that marries vibrant, top-down blast-em-up action with some of the more prominent elements of the traditional breed of RPG dungeon-crawlers.
It’s a curious pastiche for sure, but that’s not to say that RadianGames haven’t taken the time and effort to bring the player up to speed with such an unusual concept. Inferno+ boasts a welcoming, unintimidating tutorial system that gradually introduces its major gameplay mechanics in a smooth, evenly-tempered fashion that strikes a suitably measured balance between being haphazardly rushed and patronisingly slow.
One shouldn’t deign to understate the importance and efficacy of this introduction because Inferno+ is, in truth, rather simple. The player, operating a circular orange glow, must blast, dodge and weave through a series of stages crawling with similarly minimalistic, yet oppositely antagonistic, enemies, utilising his or her firepower to turn defence into attack in the drive towards each level’s finishing post. But don’t forget to collect the keys required to unblock the doors concealing the exits and bonus areas, lest you wish victim to the deadly circles’ wrath.
A motley crew of assorted geometric shapes and loci they may be, but these enemies come in a variety of different forms. Stationary gun turrets, large blobs that spawn deadly, projectile-spewing minions, dots that unleash deadly homing attacks – they’re all here and ready to bring you to your knees if your tactics aren’t up to snuff.
What makes your adversaries so overwhelming, however, if their sheer strength in numbers. The first few levels unfold innocently enough, but it’s not long before you’re being swarmed by hordes of deadly foes, and they’ll bond together in tight clusters in an attempt to block off your escape route.
Luckily, this is where your 360-degree turrets, shield booster and bomb attacks come in pretty ruddy handily. Laying waste to dozens of enemies at once with a single, piercing flurry of gunfire is an unequivocal pleasure that only twin-stick shooters seem to muster, and Inferno+ draws heavily on this self-aggrandising dynamic as the fulcrum of its manic sense of appeal. There’s an undeniable art to the tentative, stealthy approach adopted by indie games more sophisticated than Inferno+, but, it’s sometimes just so much more satisfying to obliterate the competition into tiny, brightly-coloured smithereens, and this game embraces that deep-rooted thirst for instant gratification with undying enthusiasm.
It would be amiss of me not to mention Inferno+’s power-ups and its extensive upgrade system because they’re, well, quite frankly, mightily impressive to behold. The game employs a level-up system that grants incremental improvements to several player attributes, each of which has a marked and lasting effect on the progression of the gaming experience. It’s nicely complemented by an in-game economy through which players acquire monetary rewards for their in-level exploits, which can subsequently be redeemed for further upgrades and perks at the various upgrade shops that litter the game world. Simply taking the quickest, least torrid routes through each level will grant you an ample amount of change, but it’s only through exploring every nook and cranny and taking on the most adversarial of obstacles that you’ll gain access to the richest prizes. Think of it as a risk-reward system that both compels players to take chances and that directly influences their cognitive approach to their surroundings and goals within the gaming landscape.
Needless to say, Inferno+ looks the part. Its vibrant visual aesthetics and simple, eye-catching player and NPC models offer a sensual graphical melange to rival the likes of Geometry Wars and Beat Hazard, although it’s worth noting that it all comes at a price. If you’re the kind of player who’s susceptible to bright colours, quick flashes and fast-paced animations, don’t be surprised if Inferno+ leaves you racing for the paracetomol cupboard more than once or twice during your gameplay.
Like many of its twin-stick brethren, Inferno+ is best enjoyed with a gamepad, but that’s not to say that the standard ‘A-W-S-D’ keyboard inputs aren’t totally unforgiving. What’s more clear, on the other hand, is that the full freedom granted in a full 360-degree range with a controller can’t quite be replicated with the stringent directional keys found on your standard keyboard, meaning that Inferno+ comes with a not entirely essential, yet highly recommended, barrier of entry that might prove to be enough to put some players off.
Inferno+ represents an admirable stab in the right direction for players looking for some much-needed variety in a genre that’s becoming staler by the minute. With over 40 levels in tow, it’s a substantial adventure that’s only boosted by the game’s New Game+ option and its insatiable capacity to reel the player in for another attempt at beating a previous high score. It isn’t quite an embodiment of gaming nirvana, but it’s more than deserving of a place in the highest echelons of what the twin-stick mould can offer today.
Review summary Pros:
Classic, frantic twin-stick shooter action; Deep, rewarding upgrade system; Picturesque graphical style
Keyboard controls offer limited freedom of movement