Just as Gravity Badgers was an unpredictable next step from Master Reboot, Wales Interactive’s latest title Infinity Runner, a first-person sci-fi runner game available here on Steam, is another unexpected move for the intrepid studio.
At first glance, you’ll almost certainly be reminded of Mirror’s Edge. The protagonist, a werewolf attempting to escape from a semi-wrecked spaceship, has to run down seemingly endless linear corridors, sliding and leaping over obstacles and using the environment to proceed.
There’s also a token attempt at combat, which involves a series of quick-time events within a very generous time limit. It’s a nice addition, adding a tone of desperation to the character’s escape as he bashes soldiers into mulch with his fists, but as the combat sections are much slower than the rest of the game, they never offer much challenge.
The gameplay looks a lot harder and more complex than it actually is. The protagonist automatically sprints forward, and the player’s job is to turn when a corner approaches and traverse obstacles by pressing either the slide button or the jump button. Obviously, things get more layered and the obstacles become more complicated as the game progresses, but Infinity Runner‘s simple approach makes it easy to pick up and play.
However, as I mentioned in the second paragraph, you play as a werewolf. This means that 80% of the time you get to run and dodge as a fleshy old human, which is good fun. Unfortunately, 30% of the time you are forced to mutate into wolf-form, which increases speed and makes the camera bob up and down like a nodding dog at a thrash metal gig. It was during the werewolf sections that I actually started to feel a little nauseous.
Despite the onset of motion sickness, the werewolf sections are often easier than the human sections, as they require less input from the player. When in wolf-form, the protagonist automatically deals with any unfortunate enemies that find themselves in your way, and often takes obstacles without needing direction. The difficulty in these sections is in keeping up with the sheer pace of it, and also wall-running when necessary.
The most interesting aspect of Infinity Runner is the fact that it’s compatible with the exciting Oculus Rift. Unfortunately, I’m yet to get my hands on a headset, but I can imagine the adrenaline rush of sprinting frantically through a spaceship as it falls apart. It’s a great show of ambition from Wales Interactive, and those of you lucky enough to have the hardware should definitely give it a try.
Obviously given the nature of the gameplay, you spend most of the game staring down a collection of brown and grey corridors, but the environments are surprisingly in-depth, complete with brief glimpses of deep space and vast, falling architecture to hinder your progress. Unfortunately, the story is nowhere near as in-depth as the visuals.
I’m aware that like the setting and the environments, the story is simply set dressing for a game focused completely on fun, addictive gameplay, but I still feel its lacking even in that capacity. The entire story is told through brief paragraphs of exposition at the beginning and end of each level, and also by a sci-fi punk woman over a com-link. There is very little explanation given for most of the games’ plot points, and it tries and fails at having a sense of humour.
Why do the soldiers you kill bleed green? Why is this spaceship made up of mile-long corridors? The game almost makes a joke out of the lack of context.
There are data-files to collect through-out the levels, and while I appreciate they add an important score-enhancing element to the game, they are introduced mid-level by the punk women, who says “By the way, you have to collect these”. I know I’m incredibly pedantic, but if you’re not going contextualise them, why not just say “collect these to boost your score” instead of making a meagre effort to incorporate them into the story.
The data-files, along with the aptly named ‘collectibles’ are essential to Infinity Runner, because this isn’t a game that you play once. This is a game that you reply over and over again, hoping to beat your high-score with a series of smoother than smooth dodges.
The multi-player mode also adds a competitive edge to the score-hunting, allowing you to battle up to 32 other players to prove your high-score is not to be beaten by any other snotty-nosed werewolf. If you’ve put in the kind of legwork it takes to get a high-score you’re proud of, you’ll want to show off your skills.
Despite it’s half-arsed attempt at story-telling and setting, the sleekness of Infinity Runner’s design is enough to carry the player through it’s fourteen levels. Nothing quite beats the thrill of pounding down a corridor, sliding and leaping past all manner of obstacles, and it’s hard not to grin when you pull it off. Now all I need is an Oculus Rift…
A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. However, I'm more than happy playing a wide range of genres on both consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I'm also a History student.