Infernax Review: Infernax warns the player that the game contains “blatant language, acts of violence in the name of justice, copious amounts of blood, and half-dressed demonic characters of varying degrees of attractiveness.” It might lead you to believe it’s an edgy and difficult game, but in reality, Infernax is a love letter to retro platformers like Castlevania.
That’s not to say there isn’t a ridiculous amount of blood here, but there is a real heart with all that blood.
Infernax is clearly visually inspired by classic NES and 8-bit computer titles, but the pixel graphics here are unusually complex and the color scheme has more in common with 16-bit titles.
The result is something in between, a 12-bit fusion that has a charm and feels all its own. It might not change the minds of pixel art haters, but it’s far more imaginative and skillful than many other titles that use this aesthetic. Enemies are very well designed and have distinctive and challenging move sets and attacks with a hint of influence similar to souls.
You play as Lord Elk, a knight who returns to his home country (apparently from the Crusades given his disguise) to find it plagued by demons and monsters. In an unrealistic depiction of aristocratic benevolence, you must strive to find the cause of this evil and defeat it.
To do so, you’ll explore a Metroidvania-inspired world, discover new areas with new abilities, and use your trusty mace to drive evil from your land. Castlevania is a clear influence in terms of looks, but there’s also an uncanny similarity to 2010’s Dante’s Inferno, not least thanks to the implementation of a morality mechanic that allows you to save or kill various characters throughout. the long game: the results of which can unlock some of the radically different paths.
The key aspects of Infernax are the controls and level design, and luckily both are strengths. Moose is a solid fighter, but he has a jump that has enough control to get you out of some tough spots, while the skills and magic powers you unlock can be combined to navigate some fiendish areas. There may be an overreliance on instant kill pools, but it clearly matches the difficulty of the game’s influences.
The world map has nifty shortcuts, and it’s usually clear when your progress requires a new skill. The only exception to this was a boss level that requires you to pay attention to what NPCs are saying to determine what is needed. This type of puzzle was a nice addition and it’s a shame that there aren’t more possibilities for this approach.
Boss battles are the highlight of combat here, with some grossly memorable layouts to take on. Each of these bosses bursts into torrents of blood when defeated, and Moose continues to bear the bloody mark of their battles until you pray and save at a shrine. XP can be turned into player upgrades here and you will also find gold which can buy spells and upgrades for armor and weapons.
These are essential if you want to progress (in some cases, quite literally, as certain spells are required to access particular areas), so it’s worth grinding once in a while to make sure you can buy everything in each city that you meet.
There are two main difficulty levels available at the start of the game, Classic and Casual. The former works like an old-school title, with infrequent checkpoints, while Casual offers extra lives to retry areas.
Casual is still not a walk in the park, however, and it’s hard enough to be fun and work as a workout to try out the tougher modes. There are also some hidden character types that I haven’t tried yet, including one based on the well-known Konami code that’s completely game-changing.