by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Getting the Ball Rolling
As part of Hooked Gamers’ look at the games which feature in the PAX Aus Indie Showcase, we were sent a preview build of InFlux. InFlux has you playing the roll (yes, we’re aware that you normally play a role, not a roll) of the alien creature which takes the guise of something akin to a disco ball. The opening cut-scene shows the ball fly through the sky and crash land, only to emerge from a hole onto a secluded beach. And that is pretty much all the back-story you are going to get; InFlux is all about exploring and discovering what to do on your own.
A Tale of two cities
InFlux is actually a game in two parts. The first has you controlling the spherical object as you explore the landscape. This phase is somewhat linear, featuring old-fashioned torches littered around the outdoor terrain to indicate where you need to go. You can certainly traverse the countryside at your own leisure and go where you please, but the torches will help keep you heading in the right direction. During your stroll throughout the game world you will stumble upon a number of small, glowing objects. They are firefly-like creatures that will be attracted to you and need to be collected in order to gain access to the numerous glasshouses that are scattered around the gorgeous landscape.
The glasshouse areas, which are rather featureless and sterile looking, contain the puzzle element of the game. They are usually quite simple and start off with a room that gives you a brief impression of what is to come. In one glasshouse, you roll your little round avatar across panels that rotate the room until you have the room itself facing in the correct direction to reach the exit. As you progress, new elements are added into the mix and the next room has an energy orb that needs to be deposited into a particular goal. Others rooms require you to move multiple orbs to specific areas, whilst further on in the game there are levels that see your ball blown up high into the air on a gigantic fan, or tripping small catapults that move you and the energy orbs onto higher platforms. Some of the puzzle rooms may take a couple of trips around the rooms to determine the best course of action, but none of the puzzles are overly difficult.
Music soothes the savage beast
As you work your way through each of the puzzle rooms, you are accompanied by some wonderful background music. There are sections of lively jungle beats which suit some of the scenes marvelously and there are sections which are filled with a haunting orchestral score. The soundtrack, by composer Jonathan Yandel, just places you in a relaxing frame of mind.
The scenic outdoor setting has jungle areas filled with plant life and village huts while other sections take place along a beach. One of my favorite locations was an enclosed cave complete with blue luminous fungi growing on the floors and ceilings. Whatever the setting, it all looks fantastic and contrast starkly to the bland environments contained inside the glasshouses. Here, there is minimal colour and everything is square and as sterile as a hospital ward. You would think that this blandness is a complaint, but it could not be further from the truth. The contrast between the lush outdoors and sterility of the glasshouses works marvelously well.
Another Steam Greenlight contender
Once you’ve exited a completed puzzle glasshouse, it feels great to have some time to traverse the dazzling landscape before heading into a new puzzle zone. The music just enhances the feel of relaxation as you roll over the beautifully rendered grassland, beaches and rocky outcrops. The controls are as simple as they come, ensuring that less-dextrous gamers will still be able to have some fun with InFlux as well. And although the puzzle zones do get gradually more difficult, the difficulty level never seem out of control.
If you want to see more of this indie title, vote for it in the Steam Greenlight project. From what we’ve seen so far, InFlux certainly earns it.