I’m one of those “90s kids” that grew up with games of the 8-bit and 16-bit generations. I have a lot of nostalgia both for the art style and game design of that era, and I am absolutely LOVING the resurgence of retro throwbacks. The latest in this trend is Infernax, a monster-packed side-scrolling action game from developer Berzerk Studio and published by The Arcade Crew, launching on PC, Switch, Xbox X/S/One, and PS4 on February 14, 2022. The PC demo was played for this preview.
Infernax follows the adventures of Duke Alcedor, returning home from the crusades to find that horrible monsters now roam the countryside. Alcedor sets out to uncover the truth behind these accursed fiends, but how things play out is ultimately up to you. Over the course of your adventure you’ll be faced with choices that decide how it all ends, so choose wisely.
The game plays like a callback to NES side-scrolling action titles like Legend of Zelda II or Castlevania. You’re relatively slow, you don’t have a ton of health, and your main form of attack is a melee with a little bit of range to it… but just a little. This makes combat a fair bit more deliberate; you need to get used to your precise range and learn how enemies act to have any hope of taking them out without them wearing you down.
It’s not ALL one-sided against you, however. As you slay enemies you’ll earn XP for more strength, health, and MP; and gold you can spend on gear, potions, and magic.
Sadly, while I would love to go more in-depth into the extra mechanics, I only got a small taste of them during the demo. There’s only two spells I was able to purchase – a ranged lightning attack and a heal – and the map and area design had areas I’d clearly have to come back to with a new ability, but no such abilities were present yet. Still, I did get a taste for their level design in the one dungeon available, Valeshire Keep, which involved a fair bit of exploration and backtracking to acquire the keys needed for the boss.
Speaking of bosses, there’s three over the course of the demo and they’re all fantastically grotesque and retro. You can’t rely on outranging them or knocking them back with attacks like you can basic enemies, so it’s all about learning the patterns to their attacks, and even these early bosses can have rewarding things to uncover.
For instance, one of them does a lunging overhead swing for their main attack. The first time I fought him, I simply backed way off whenever he did it. Safe, but slow. On a subsequent playthrough I noticed the way the blade hits the ground leaves a space right in front of him. So I took a step back and ducked, and was rewarded with a nice cozy safe spot where I could still attack. This isn’t the only boss with such a safe spot either, rewarding close observation of the boss with the opportunity to dodge while continuing to attack.
Lastly, the art and music just absolutely nails that retro aesthetic. It’s not quite how things were back in the early 90s – there’s way more color, shading, and frames of animation – but it’s how our rose-tinted glasses remember things being. The chiptune soundtrack is simply stellar and likewise hearkens back to yesteryear in how it’s in your face and memorable while also really “feeling” like the area they represent through “instrument” choice and tempo.
The developers have hit the ground running with this early build of Infernax, and I can only imagine how the game will play out once you have more abilities and spells. At this point I’ve gone through the demo maybe five times or so, and I absolutely can’t wait for the full release in February.
Preview copy provided by The Arcade Crew for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of The Arcade Crew.