Infernax Preview: A Valentine to the Gory Retro Side-Scrolling Past

Infernax will be bringing it's gory pixelated nostalgia to all lovers of old school gaming this Valentine's Day.

There’s no shortage of modern retro-styled homage-centric games that speak to the nostalgia of days gone, but Infernax might earn some extra karmic points for releasing its unabashed pixel love this Valentine’s Day for PC, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

Honestly, given how 2022 has already started, a carnage-filled, low-fi hack and slash side-scroller might be the perfect way to spend the day anyway. 

Infernax Preview: A Valentine to the Gory Retro Side-Scrolling Past

Infernax is a mix of Ghosts n’ Goblins, Castlevania, and Metroid spun up in a grimdark fantasy world that would have felt right at home in the 8- and 16-bit console era. As a beleaguered, yet dashing knight, Alcedor, you’ve finally returned home from war to find the place in nightmarish chaos. The dead walk the earth, hellish spawn skulk the poor citizens, and the kingdom needs a hero with the kind of earnest that would warrant a Bonnie Taylor solo to power the entire soundtrack.

So, you know, normal classic video gaming stuff. Developer Berzerk Studio is adamant Infernax is the kind of brutal, gory, difficult side-scroller adventures the old-timers jammed to. Hell, the short demo beta we played even started with a warning about how the game was not for children.

On a side note, my seven-year-old can confirm this. Having hoped on my lap to watch immediately upon seeing the warning, she soon got bored with all those “old-looking” graphics. Make of that what you will.

In terms of just how brutal, dark, and gory Infernax is in comparison to say the downright dismal extremeness of Blasphemous, this game is damn near cheery and bright. It has a lot more color, for one thing, and the more retro-fied (that’s a word, right?) graphics really do a lot to take the edge off any violence as pixel blood and exploding body parts just aren’t as shocking as they used to be.

The visuals are solid, so long as you want to play something that looks like it’s from around 1991. The beta was only about a half-hour long but provided some keen insights into what distinguishes Infernax from the slew of other games of this ilk. For one thing, there’s a hefty focus on grinding for XP and gold. These, in turn, are used to level up Alcedor’s stats, earn him new skills and powers, better weapons, and other useful means of survival.

These light RPG elements are more important here than in most Metroidvanias and should offer interesting ways to tailor the knight to your carnage-inducing preferences. The open-world map features plenty of chance for exploration, backtracking, and, of course, repeatedly killing respawning monsters. There are castles, dungeons, caves, forests, and other fraught locations to explore, with a variety of fiends to kill. Bosses abound as well. We murdered several hulking abominations in just the first 15 minutes and liked it.

Another element that isn’t particularly well-represented in the beta is the inclusion of a morality system. Throughout, Alcedor will have the opportunity to make choices between light and dark options. These, in turn, will be tracked and lead to different endings. Admittedly, we only encountered one such event. A poor villager begging you to kill him as his body convulsed violently offered up the choice to either kill or pray for him. As it turns out, praying for the poor bugger also leads to killing him after he transforms into an ooze-filled agent of death.

It seems like this added bit of decision-making will give Infernax a boost of distinction, though we won’t know how much until review time.

Infernax Preview — My Bloody Valentine

Beyond that, the demo was fun with lively if basic mace-bashing combat, a variety of monsters to crush, townspeople, quests, and shops to engage with, and more. Infernax is clearly not as linear as many games of this type used to be and with the greater emphasis on stat-building and side-quests, there’s likely going to be a lot of meaty action to be had in the end.

Stay tuned for our full review next month. 

[Note: Berzerk Studio provided the copy of Infernax used for this preview.]

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published Jan. 12th 2022

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