The world of Infernax hearkens the player back to side-scrolling action-adventure titles of old, and feels exactly like it could have belonged on the NES. The title is clearly inspired by titles such as Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, except it never leaves you hanging with the “what do I do next?” or “where do I go?” feeling. Nothing is out of place in the Duchy of Upel, besides the bloodthirsty demons that roam literally everywhere. As mentioned by the trigger warning screen going in, this game is GORY.
Duke Alcedor is returning to his kingdom after being away to find it infested with demons of the night, and an unholy ritual took place while he was gone to great effect. The townspeople of the many locations you will visit all need the Duke to embark on side quests, while shattering the five seals that contain whatever lurks behind the Urzon Citadel. The Castlevania feel this title gives off is undeniable. This is not a bad thing either, from the combat up to the music that serenades the player throughout. A well-done gothic horror ensemble.
The controls are very simple, one button jumps, and another button swings your trusty mace with skull-crushing effect. The feeling of how the mace interacts with enemies is satisfying, as demons of the night succumb to blunt force trauma with bloody effect. Multiple times throughout my playthrough, the title character, Duke Alcedor was covered with so much viscera he was literally dripping blood, a really cool effect. Berzerk Studio really outdid themselves in that regard, as when Alcedor meets his demise, a fatality sequence follows and there are A LOT of them.
The main gameplay difference between this title and other 2D 8-bit action adventures, is the reliance on player choice. In the very beginning, Alcedor faces morality decisions. A demon possessed human is begging you to kill him, and you have the choice of either utilizing your mace or attempting to save the unlucky villager. Without spoiling anything, both choices have VERY different outcomes immediately.
There are also long-term choices that affect the outcome farther down the narrative. I chose to be a righteous Duke and kicked out a bandit camp that was bothering a local, and due to this, when I met a trader on a bridge, the brigands from the camp mercilessly slaughtered the merchant. It’s up to the player on a separate playthrough to see what would have happened differently if you decided to stay and party with the camp instead of playing the buzz-kill landlord. ‘Robert’ was super creepy anyway, and the local taught me a healing spell for removing the camp. A GODSEND in this game.
Infernax is HARD, like its 8-bit inspirations. The difficulty is always one step ahead of the player, but there is a ‘Casual’ difficulty setting to let less experienced players enjoy the game as well, a solid choice to allow a broader audience to enjoy Infernax also. Upgrading your character will also do wonders in keeping you alive throughout the game. There are save points where you can choose to upgrade MANA, HEALTH, or POWER. All three help immensely, and it gives more credence to player choice on which is upgraded first. Blunt force trauma upgrade? Say no more.
“Infernax is HARD, like its 8-bit inspirations.”
There are boss enemies littering the kingdom, some are hidden in side quests, and there are five seal bosses in dungeons the player must complete to break the seals. Each boss acts differently, allowing a variety of play styles to solve the riddle of how to defeat them. This feels like a triumphant moment, considering some aren’t obvious.
In traditional Metroidvania fashion, the player gets upgrades from ‘seal dungeons’ that will allow them to advance the story, such as the ability to break fractured blocks that formerly impeded progress. Backtracking throughout the beginning of the story can be a real drag sometimes, as a small error in platforming can halt all progress made. This is a small gripe though, as the gameplay is very smooth and addicting. Even though this happened a few times during my playthrough, I felt the fault was mine and not a ridiculous occurrence that shouldn’t have happened. Excellent 2D platforming level design for sure.
Infernax is a love song to 2D platforming games with gratuitous violence and a decent storyline that hitches a ride for the duration of gameplay. Smooth gameplay mechanics and responsive controls are a must in a title like this, and Infernax delivers in exceptional fashion. The choice game mechanic is rare for a title like this, and always made me double think every response I was about to make, an extra addition to a fantastic game that gives replay value that doesn’t feel cheap or bloated.