Infinity Runner (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 04.09.2014

Review for Infinity Runner on PC

Ever play a game that has one mode or section that just doesn't belong? Multiplayer in BioShock 2, or boss battles in Deus Ex: Human Revolution come to mind. Most likely developed by a separate company, it either twists the game mechanics in unflattering ways, or has a tone that doesn't click with the rest of the game. It just feels wrong, and leaves players asking, "Who the hell thought that was a good idea?" This feeling looms over the entire play time of Infinity Runner, a game for which every decision relating to its genre, structure, pacing, and narrative was the wrong decision, leaving only the ghost of an outstanding premise behind to try and redeem the experience.

Infinity Runner is about a werewolf loose on a starship, with a protagonist who is also a werewolf. Absurdity aside, that's all kinds of awesome. The first warning sign shows up immediately, however, when the game reveals that this setup is only the backdrop for a Temple Run clone with small elements of horror. Still, fair enough - justification of game mechanics is appreciated, and endless running games aren't going to get a better justification than "There's a werewolf behind you," but this thought apparently went over the heads of the developers at Wales Interactive. The lead character spends the entire game running solely because a mysterious voice told him to in the opening minutes. When the other werewolf finally shows up for the expected chase, nothing about the gameplay changes, except now there's a constant growl sound effect. No, seriously, the player is being chased by a werewolf through cramped corridors, and there's zero additional sense of urgency. Apart from the fact that the werewolf poses no actual threat to the player until later scripted sequences, this is likely because the game is already too damn fast. Each new obstacle can only be overcome by trial and error, before it simply becomes part of the player's repertoire in an abnormally large game of Simon.

Screenshot for Infinity Runner on PC

At this point, the game becomes pathetically easy, with nothing even resembling a difficulty curve. It's also the moment where the game starts to feel downright bizarre, because among its stable of obstacles are several relatively elaborate set-pieces like something from a sci-fi Uncharted. These would be definite highlights in any game with a normal grasp of player psychology, but instead, the exact same scenes are repeated dozens of times, dulling their effect, and lending the whole enterprise an air of unreality, as bullets and debris fly in the same formations, and soldiers are taken down in identical fashion over and over again. Even the protagonist's werewolf powers, which are explicitly stated to be activated at will, are entirely scripted, and are mostly used to traverse the same collectable-filled tube once per level, and mow down soldiers without player input. That's even less interesting than it sounds, because the protagonist's human form can already subdue soldiers with single punches, so it's not even any kind of power reversal. The unreality is amplified by the realisation that the Story Mode's levels are not randomly generated, meaning someone deliberately placed two identical leaps through zero-G space right beside each other, multiple times, and didn't think that that might feel strange after a while.

Screenshot for Infinity Runner on PC

The fact that Infinity Runner has a Story Mode is a little surprising, given its genre. Unfortunately, the story that drives it is completely worthless. The player is informed early on that they and another werewolf are loose on the starship 'Infinity' (so named presumably to complete the title's pun), and that's about all they will know by the end, as well. The game merely teases with the answers to the game's core mysteries before abruptly ending on an insulting cliffhanger. Not-so-hidden collectable items unlock hints at narrative depth, but they are neither interesting, nor detailed enough to be worthwhile. The most embarrassing element of the entire game, however, has to be the messages received between levels. They serve no storyline purpose, often reiterating events and dialogue that were witnessed mere seconds earlier, and they exude the uncomfortable feeling that they exist solely for the developers to pat themselves on the back, as they can almost always be summarised with, "That was cool! I wonder what will happen next?!"

The most frustrating, yet most redeeming aspect of Infinity Runner, is that the vestiges of the other, better game it could have been periodically shine through. The other werewolf is introduced using some genuinely well-crafted moments of foreshadowing and composition, and for all its design issues, the gameplay is still reasonably fun, if only because controlling a fast thing that ploughs through obstacles is always fun, no matter how it's implemented. It controls well, too, and although using the mouse to take corners is a stupid idea, the collision detection is quite merciful. Furthermore, there's an unnecessary, but entertaining, multiplayer component that's surprisingly richly-featured, offering several modes and otherwise unseen power-ups. There's also an Arcade Mode, which is, astonishingly, more than just "Story Mode without the story" as it contains new obstacles not encountered elsewhere in the game, and uses the expected random level generation that the Story Mode didn't bother with. In fact, it's probably the best part of the experience for these reasons. Finally, though, "Temple Run clone" describes the core gameplay well; the setting, variety of obstacles, and aforementioned extra modes succeed in giving it at least some identity of its own.

Screenshot for Infinity Runner on PC

Aesthetically, Infinity Runner is just as confused as the rest of the game. The graphics are technically adequate, and often artistically striking, but unsuited for the blazing speed of the gameplay. One of the main reasons for the game's initial trial and error period is that it's impossible to tell how to avoid most obstacles at a glance. The hallways are also impenetrably dark, making corners (which for some reason cause instant death, while lasers do not) far more hazardous than they should be. That point is alleviated on Easy Mode, which adds glowing arrows to each turn. While the creative use of difficulty settings beyond increasing numbers is appreciated, this particular feature probably should have been more than just a concession made to novices. The music is a passable collection of speedy industrial tracks that are well-suited to the setting and gameplay, but they are also very repetitive (which ironically makes them even more suited to the gameplay). The voice acting and sound effects are of similar competent but repetitive quality.

Screenshot for Infinity Runner on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

All of the underlying wrongness of Infinity Runner can probably be traced back to Wales Interactive overstretching itself. The game was almost definitely envisioned as something more open and complete, until a lack of money or time forced the developer to squeeze its ideas into the shell of an endless runner. The rigidity of the genre ruins almost every promising aspect of the game - it defangs the antagonist, dilutes the plot to the point of irrelevance, and - most damning of all - makes the fact that the protagonist is a werewolf almost inconsequential. A great game exists somewhere in a previous version of Infinity Runner's design document, but the released product is so constricted and amateurish that it will only be remembered as the game that managed to screw up the concept of werewolves in space.

Developer

Wales Interactive

Publisher

Wales Interactive

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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