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Infinifactory: Early Access Impressions

Infinidifficulty

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Oh my goodness, Infinifactory is difficult.

I’ve been delighted by the recent spate of 3D first-person puzzlers, like Mind: Path To Thalamus, The Talos Principle, Puzzle Dimension, and of course Portal and Portal 2. Infinifactory looks at them and says, “Pah! For babies!” An obvious evolution from the developer’s previous SpaceChem, this is a three dimensional block-arranging puzzler, where you’re tasked with creating factory lines that move blocks about in certain formations.

Oh, look, it’s tough to describe. Have a trailer:

And, as mentioned, good gravy it’s hard. It’s hard for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s a brutally tricky puzzle game, and secondly – at this stage in its alpha – because it’s horribly poorly introduced.

Which is a surprise, after its glorious opening. It opens with you sat in a car, driving down a long road in what looks like the American mid-west, when bright lights flicker about you and all fades away. It’s an alien kidnapping! You wake to find yourself in a series of chambers, forced to complete very basic challenges to progress through rooms. You’re stamped into a special suit, which equips you with the ability to place cubes into the environment. Quickly you’re shown that this can be used to create factory lines that transfer other cubes from one place to t’other.

You’re then seemingly approved for further work in a beautifully timed and very silly sequence featuring some sort of alien overlord, at which point it abandons most of the façade and just becomes a straight puzzle game, challenges selected from a menu screen. And that happy-go-lucky comedy tutorial will have in no way prepared you.

It’s extremely clumsy, leaving out key instructions that aren’t fun to stumble upon for yourself. However, once stumbled upon, the incredibly tricky fun does begin. But wow, it’s tough stuff.

Most other puzzlers would tell you that the blocks that make fizzy lights are there to fuse other blocks together. They’d likely create a puzzle where you were carefully guided to do a very basic version of this fusing. Not Infinifactory. And while less hand-holding is extremely welcome across most gaming, it’s interesting to see the effect of having too little. I’m yet to decide how in favour of it I am. I’m pretty certain some much clearer explanation of what blocks actually are is heavily necessary.

I think this is best reflected in how I respond to the survey at the end of each puzzle. “Was this puzzle too hard?” Yes. “Did you have fun solving this puzzle?” Yes. It’s an odd, seeming contradiction, but sadly there’s not room to give a more nuanced explanation there. Phew, thank goodness I have this website to say it on instead.

A lovely touch is the slight maintenance of the story as you go. Dead bodies can be found on levels, with recorded logs capturing their final moments. Moments that seem to be extremely distressed. I’m not entirely sure what it is that previous captives were so distraught about. Sure, we’ve been captured by aliens, but it’s not like we’re getting probed – we’re being given jetpacks and asked to solve clever puzzles! Jetpacks, for goodness sakes! Were they sobbing about how bloody difficult it is, then yes, I could understand.

I’ve barely got anywhere with the game, but despite the issues, I’ve had a rather good time not getting there. I’ve stared blankly at puzzles, or aimlessly floated around them (thanks, jetpack), muttering to myself. It’s very clear that the brains at Zachtronics are much bigger than my own, and kudos to them for creating a game that isn’t afraid to scare people off. And if you’re a SpaceChem fan, then it’s safe to say you’re going to be diving head-first into this.

17 pounds and 9 pence strikes me as a heck of a lot for an unfinished puzzle game in development, but then I don’t understand you young people and your new-fangled schemes. There’s no doubt that if you’re a brainbox, and enjoy a puzzler that’s more free-form, a bit sandboxy rather than aiming for a perfect solution, then there’s huge appeal here. There’s a nice touch that it’ll compare your solution with your chums’ on Steam, too, which might fire up some competitive edge.

I’m rubbish at it, of this there is no doubt.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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