Long-tipped champion of the games industry, set to wrench back the beauty and wonder of the medium from between the triple-A shaped jaws of focus group-conceived dross and drudgery, the indie scene has come to represent a significant force within the realm of gaming, with groundbreaking monsters such as Braid, … and of course Minecraft all being nurtured to maturity at its bosom.
Sadly, all is not well on the indie front. Where the scene’s alternative attitudes and developmental processes foster creativity and originality, an area that suffers particularly is quality control. For every Braid, for every Minecraft, indie fans might have to wade through countless outrageously poor ‘products’, spewed from the filthy orifice of some half-baked, cut-price dev trying to make a quick buck. This has been a problem for PC gamers for years, but now with smaller and smaller ‘niche’ titles an expanding presence on console’s digital game stores, there is the risk that store-browsing customers’ buying habits will be pole-axed by a lack of faith in the quality of produce being represented.
The game that brought these thoughts to mind was Infinity Runner, a derivative and poorly executed mockery of the endless runner games broadly popularised on mobile platforms. Developed by a young studio, Wales Interactive, as their first game for consoles, the lack of experience is palpable in its production.
The basic functions seem, generally, to work, though can prove unreliable on occasion. There’s nothing original here, nothing that hasn’t been excised from some other game and stitched onto the gaunt and featureless frame of Infinity Runner. It will ring more than a few bells with players of mobile smash, Temple Run, and has no more complexity to speak of, beyond the minor frilliness brought to the table with the addition of a range of utterly indistinguishable levels.
Aboard the spacefaring vessel ‘Infinity’, all kinds of effluent are hitting the fan, you are charging relentlessly along its seemingly endless spaghetti network of corridors like some sort of supercharged bath-salts zombie of tabloid press fame. Story Mode plot exposition comes in the form of monologues between levels, informing the player that they are aboard a ship where they’ve had experiments conducted on them in an attempt to harness their werewolf superpowers. Yes, you play a werewolf. There’s more but it’s all such arbitrary filler there may as well not be, and none of it does a thing to compensate for the game’s flawed core.
What’s important in this genre of endless runners is mechanical fluidity and the resulting potential to conjure a state of concentrated trance; techno-meditation for the modern human. It is in the face of this core tenet that Infinity Runner balks at the knees and wets itself. Any sense of fluidity that may have been is utterly destroyed by an unreliable control system, and in moments where there may be a fleeting sense of zen, a trial-and-error element pops up, as unwelcome and poorly judged as a clown outfit at a funeral, scuppering any hopes of having a nice old time.
Neatly nestled in ‘Arcade Mode’ there the option to get rid of all the story fluff and the pointless QTE-based combat interludes, purifying the experience to a bearable level. The brief leaps through space and some of the more creative set pieces provide fleeting moments of novelty, but even then, there’s nothing that sets Infinity Runner ahead of the scores of similar titles on mobile.
Poor production values dominate both visually and aurally, and the tackiness works its way through the entire game. Shoddy voice acting, character models and textures that don’t belong in this decade and gameplay that flip-flops relentlessly between lobotomy-tier boredom and tomato-faced frustration are all detractors from the experience – one that I will categorically not be recommending.
With the game being marketed at the bargain basement bin price of £4.99, some might ask exactly what it is that I’m expecting here. The answer would be a quality product that feels finished; with Infinity Runner it’s sadly a case of budget by name, budget by nature. That developers feel it’s okay to market such a low-calibre product is a pessimistic commentary on the state of the games industry today.