by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
A Gem in the Rough
Though itís been in vogue for quite some time now, I generally donít vibe with retro-styled games. Itís not that thereís anything wrong with pixel graphics and MIDI music. Rather, far too often, the style is used as a crutch. Go the ďupcomingĒ section of any digital gaming store and youíre likely to see a flood of poorly designed, poorly put together games masquerading as a love letter to decades past. Itís not that there arenít a lot of stinkers in other genres, too, it just seems disproportionately applicable to retro platformers. That being the case, I become inordinately happy when one of these games hits all the right notes, and Iím pleased to say that I had a lot of fun with Infinite Beyond The Mind.
Itís a bit tough to write a terribly deep or complex review for this game because there really just isnít anything terribly deep or complex going on. That may seem like an insult, but it isnít! Thereís nothing wrong with a game keeping things simple as long as whatís there works, and everything in Infinite works pretty darned well. I donít generally expect deep, engaging stories in action platformers (though there are, of course, fantastic exceptions), and my expectations were met here. Thereís a bit at the beginning about two sisters with special powers and a militaristic ruler who must destroy them to assert dominance over the galaxy. The player chooses one sister to play as and must fight through a number of locales and bosses to get her sibling back.
Doesnít Spread Itself Too Thin
Infinite Beyond The Mind is a fairly simple game, with only three buttons (plus the directional arrows) to worry about. You can jump, dash and attack. Thatís it. Throughout the game, youíll be given a few upgrades (which are automatic, there are no choices or RPG elements), but they donít make things much more complex. Itís a good thing, then, that playing feels so tight and crisp. Platforming, attacking and dodging/positioning all play equal roles in success, and not once did I feel like I missed a jump or got hit by an enemy due to anything other than my own poor playing (though I do recommend changing the key binding if youíre playing on a keyboard, the default ones make it tough to quickly transition between dodging and attacking). Each level is designed with movement in mind, all having at least some level of verticality, and many have enough space to hide powerups or multiple paths.
The gameplay is tight, but the visual design pulls its weight, too. While there isnít quite as much detail as in the classics in the genre, thereís enough variety to keep things fresh throughout. Each series of levels has itís own style, ranging from classic near-future industrial to looks-like-Vietnam jungle and lots in between. Gameplay even changes it up on rare occasions, letting you play a horizontal flying shooter. Enemies change their look to match, occasionally adding types with different weapons or movement. The soundtrack is classic retro-action affair, consisting of enough electro-beats to keep my ears engaged.
Bosses and Difficulty
The bosses, coming at the end of each chunk of levels, are definitely highlights, each one completely unique and challenging to take on. The first few showcase the variety. Youíll fight a helicopter/ground-soldier-with-energy-blast-abilities combo, a person in a mech suit, a weaponized train, and a psychic woman that controls floating guns and energy balls as your first few bosses, and I had a lot of fun with each one. Something the game does particularly well is its difficulty curve. Things ramp up slowly, and I was very easily able to get accustomed to the controls and gameplay flow without feeling either babied or thrown into the deep end.
Make no mistake, though - Infinite Beyond The Mind is a hard, hard game. I started out on easy mode just to play through a few levels and see what I was getting myself into, and after a few bosses, I was already having a super tough time. Like I said above, however, it was the good type of challenge. For each, after understanding the bossí movement and behavior patterns, I was able to succeed. The only bummer is that losing all of your lives means starting back at the beginning of the mission series, not just the boss (typically 3 missions). I understand that ďGame OverĒ and the inability to always jump back in where you died is a pretty common element of classic games, but I did find myself getting frustrated during a few of the longer mission series that I had to replay quite a number of times just to get the hang of the boss.
Nothing about Infinite Beyond The Mind is revolutionary, but there isnít anything wrong with a game thatís content to do something modest in scope satisfyingly well. Yes, you can find other platformers out there that do the same things youíll find here, but thereís always room for another fun entry into any genre. If the whole retro thing tickles your fancy, this isnít a bad way to spend a few bucks.
Tight controls, varied environments
Nothing particularly new that you canít find elsewhere