February 18, 2016 2:00 PM | John Bridgman
Classifying games by genre or theme can be a bit of a hassle. As games continue to iterate and evolve, some of the simpler terms we have been accustomed to get mashed up. INFRA is a narrative-driven first person exploration game by Loiste Interactive that incorporates various additional gameplay elements at times to shake things up beyond discovering the narrative as it unfolds.
The bulk of the gameplay revolves around you, playing as a structural analyst, going off to examine and record damage at abandoned sites. You do this using your camera and flashlight, taking pictures of anything you (or, conveniently, your camera) notices to be relevant. Cracked walls, broken walkways, inoperable or dangerous machinery, there's some variety to what you'll be recording. Along the way you'll be collecting batteries for both tools since they have exceptionally short battery life as is the tendency in games like this.
As you progress and explore you'll begin to pick up clues about the game world as well as the areas you're exploring. Something sinister has been going on for a long time and if you're thorough enough in your search, you'll learn how everything is connected. There's enough intrigue here to keep you looking both for more clues and the requisite batteries to keep finding them.
Fortunately for a game with a primary interaction through a camera lens, the visuals are excellent. There is a wonderfully contrasting mix of warm, inviting forested hills to go with the mouldy, dark, claustrophobic tunnels and industrial areas you'll find yourself in. This contrast works really well to keep things interesting. Getting out of a tunnel after getting lost for a while and seeing the sunny sky again is honestly rewarding.
There's also some very good sound design - for the most part. Incidental sounds like crows and humming machines build up this game's strongest trait - its atmosphere. Paying close attention to what's going on around you will help give you clues to what you need to do next. The soundtrack is also rather good, with some solid tracks that are used at opportune times. Weaker is the voice acting. The performances aren't particularly good, though I don't think it is by any measure a reason to avoid the game.
I mentioned there were a few things to mix up the basic exploratory gameplay. Most notably, there are some puzzle-solving elements. Figuring out how to adjust circuit breakers or regulate the flow through pipes lets you progress, and while none of these are particularly hard, sometimes they are a bit of a nuisance more than a fun obstacle. What is worse in terms of what they've added is the platforming element. Jumping puzzles in first person are very seldom well-executed, and I think this game is no exception. There aren't many of these but they are particularly jarring since they don't really feel like they belong in the game.
I did encounter some technical issues as I was playing. Long load times that sometimes led to crashes were common, and a couple crashes occurred as I was in the introductory segment of the game. It may take a few tries to adjust your settings to get something stable, but there seems to be no major issue that can't be corrected. It is worth keeping in mind, however.
While it is by no means perfect, Infra is a good game despite its flaws. Technical issues and jumping puzzles aside, fans of this sort of game will be satisfied by it thanks to its excellent visuals and solid sound design. If you're looking for an atmospheric game that has some intrigue in among the exploration, keep this one in mind.