Indie Spotlight – Infernax

Jeremy Peeples5 minute read

Metroidvanias can be some of the industry’s most-rewarding adventures, with classics like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night standing up to the test of time wonderfully. More modern takes on the genre like Hollow Knight have helped expand the horizons of what the sub-genre can be, but few have tried to take things back to the past with an 8-bit visual style. We have some remakes of Symphony of the Night attempt a 16-bit look, but nothing that goes for an 8-bit look until Infernax. What makes Infernax so interesting is that it aims to be both tough as nails while also still being fair to all players who want to be able to complete the adventure with minimal frustration.

The moment the player begins the adventure, they’re informed about a variety of difficulty settings alongside a set of accessibility options. Normally, a game rooted in the 8-bit style can be ruthless, but Infernax puts the player in control of most of their fate. Simply using the difficulty options enables things like infinite continues, while the harder difficulty setting turns that off and ramps up the challenge for the enemies to withstand more damage. 

The Game Wizard faux-Game Genie interface is brilliant. Beyond the UI being exactly like the Game Genie, this opens the door to a much easier adventure, as does the inclusion of things like an in-game item and weapon shop alongside the Konami code completely changing up the action in ways that have never really been tried before in an action-platformer, let alone a Metroidvania. Inputting the Konami code turns the game from a hack-and-slash to a run-and-gun shooter and completely changes how the game is played.

Stages that are littered with enemies at all sides suddenly go from somewhat monotonous to being a breeze because the player can just mow them down. This makes the action parts of the game so much easier to enjoy without any issue, although it would be nice to have this set to a Game Wizard code instead of a title screen code that requires faster inputs. Fortunately, the in-game codes are easy to apply and can enable things like invincibility to help the player get through tough sections or just grind for XP without risk. It’s also possible to have infinite jumps, which makes any platforming sections a breeze to get through when combined with invincibility. Both of these options can be turned on or off at checkpoints, and having built-in ways like this to offer more freedom to the player is something all games can learn from.

While the attempt at crafting a multi-layered experience is admirable, it still does fall a bit short compared to other games in the genre. Street Cleaner: The Video Game remains the gold standard when it comes to accessible side-scrolling action-platformers, and the modern-day Mega Man X Collections have been impressive in that regard as well. Infernax’s development team has done good work, but the final product still needs some polish to be truly great when it comes to being fully accessible in many ways. From a fine-motor perspective, being able to just turn on auto-fire for the attack would be nice and something that could seemingly be added in with a patch or just made into a Game Wizard code later on.

The Game Wizard codes are brilliant as a whole and make the experience so much more user friendly in every regard. Even just having the option to turn invincibility on takes a lot of the frustration out of an action platformer, while having infinite jumping makes what could be an impossible platforming challenge for someone with fine-motor impairments. In the future, it would be nice to see an option in the pause menu to activate the Game Wizard codes so the player doesn’t have to go to a checkpoint, but fortunately, there are a lot of those in the game so it isn’t a big problem.

The core gameplay is incredibly fun and scratches the itch of not only wanting something that offers a challenge akin to a classic Castlevania, but also rewards exploration like a modern Metroidvania. Seeing something strike that fine balance is great and there are also some morality choices at play as well. The player can unknowingly steal money from the poor in a way that acts as an early tutorial on choices having consequences that eases the player into the game world where you’ll have to choose between helping vagabonds or helping a chemist who can boost your stats. One yields nice monetary gains while the other is better in terms of buffing the character. Having a risk/reward system in place is nice, and one impressive part is the cutscenes that pop up during these areas, as they’re highly detailed.

As a whole, Infernax’s 8-bit visual style is fairly easy to see due to its usage of large sprites and vivid colors in all parts of the game. Character models feature very few colors, but have very bold color choices to make them easy to see against the environments. Most characters don’t blend in with the backgrounds, but some do and that’s where some improvements can be made. It would be nice to see a high-contrast mode added to the game later or even something offering a bold color outline for characters that can blend in. Colorblind options may help in that regard as well. The multi-layered environments are beautiful and stand out with different palettes in place for daytime and nighttime areas.

Audio-wise, Infernax has no voice acting and its dialogue uses text boxes only. Unlike some PS1-era games like SOTN that used them, there are no options to recolor the dialogue boxes. The lack of spoken dialogue helps keep hearing players and deaf and hard-of-hearing players on the same level when it comes to the narrative, but the lack of any on-screen description of the music and its changes is a bit disappointing. Care has been taken to note changes in tone via large flashes of light that can be toned down in the options, so that is one area the developers have succeeded at where most haven’t when it comes to getting across tonal shifts, especially during the risk/reward events that help shape how the in-game residents view the protagonist.

Overall, Infernax is an incredibly accessible side-scrolling platformer and easily the most accessible Metroidvania on the market. It’s not quite the most accessible side-scrolling action game, but it’s a very close second. It controls like a dream and thanks to the addition of cheat codes that the game itself tells you about, the experience is made easier for everyone, including those with fine-motor impairments. There is room for improvement when it comes to offering colorblind options, but otherwise, Infernax is a highly accessible game for platforming fans.

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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