One of my fondest memories of being a games writer is receiving feedback for a review I did over on our sister site TheSwitchHub.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experimental and abstract nature of that game, and attempting to unravel the story for the review was a joy. The feedback itself came from the CEO of the publishing company Nakana.io, so to receive something positive from someone high up really made all the effort worth it. I replied saying that if the game ever came to Xbox, I would love to do the same again.
That game was Infini, and it is now available on Xbox. But, I have to admit, all is not well.
Publishing duties have moved away from Nakana.io, but Infini is the same game that launched back on the Nintendo Switch. This time, it is handled by Rainy Frog who have also published games such as Exitman Deluxe, Sword of the Vagrant and Mekorama.
Infini is a spatial puzzler with a heavy dose of experimental and abstract storytelling. You play as an entity known as Hope, but they appear to have lost all of their namesake, hope. Hope is humanoid in design, and about the closest thing to a human in this strange land.
We begin partway through the story, finding that Hope is trapped on an island called Infinity. The story of Infini – already abstract enough with a touch of humour – is told in a non-linear fashion. How Hope ended up trapped is revealed later on. At the beginning however, we only know of a thing called The Incident. Everything else in Infini is set X number of days after the Incident, sometimes as far as 999999999 days after. But don’t worry, you don’t need to play for nearly a billion days; Infini is only around ten hours long. Or substantially less if you judge it by a different measuring stick, but we’ll get onto that later.
Gameplay is as unique as the story in Infini and has you controlling Hope through level after level, trying to reach the exit. You can’t simply walk right up to it though, Hope will always be moving around the screen, and you need to navigate around obstacles in order to get him to the exit.
Things start off easily enough; the exit is always visible as is the route to take. But it quickly broadens to something more tricky. The beauty in Infini is that the goal is simple, but how you get there can be anything but.
The earliest example of this is found early on. Hope is moving down the screen, but you can see the exit in the top left if you zoom out. Zoom out too far though and you will reveal the exit is completely encased and unreachable. Players need to zoom out just enough to see the exit but not the full box it is hiding in, and then loop around to it by falling through the bottom of the screen. Get your head around this and Infini can be a delight to play.
But no amount of understanding can help with some of the puzzles. We’re talking being millimetres between right and wrong, and when a puzzle has you performing all manner of strategic zooms only to be the tiniest amount out, it can be incredibly frustrating. At times, this is made worse by Hope not being the easiest floating humanoid being to control.
And if learning to control Hope wasn’t tricky enough, collectibles are strategically placed in the levels. These are quite easy to spot but getting them is a whole other kettle of fish. Managing to collect one but failing the level doesn’t work either, you need to finish the level at the same time.
If you can’t get them on your first try, you can always return to a specific level later on thanks to some gravestones and a dog that acts as a level select screen.
But this Xbox port isn’t without issues. Namely, the achievements. Even just mentioning the achievements you can probably tell where I am going with this. It took me all of 13 minutes to unlock the full 1000G. Granted, I have played this before, but it still should only take a first-time player around 20 minutes to get them all.
Now, this setup suits many gamers. But there will also be others out there using Infini as little more than achievement fodder, and it deserves so much better. If it then follows the recent trend of releasing 1000G Title Updates for simply playing a couple more levels, then it will further cheapen the experience.
The story alone deserves to be fully experienced. There is almost this knowing tongue-in-cheek method of how the characters are portrayed and introduced. Memory is a giant elephant, playing on the old wives’ tale that elephants never forget. War knows Hope very well and has an assault rifle – of all things – as a head. And then there is Time itself; a being that has a nasty habit of sneaking up on the other characters when they least expect it. Something we can all relate to.
Easy achievements or not, Infini is well worth your time. There are the knowing nods and winks to concepts and emotions in the story that will remain with you after you finish the main game, which itself can be quite challenging. Stick around with Infini and it will stick around with you long after you have finished it.