There’s something quite lovely about Impromptu Games‘ InFlux. Some of it is due to the way the lighting looks in the game. The game opens up on a beach in the space between night and morning. The extraterrestrial sphere that acts as the player avatar starts rolling around and the light it emits from its center through its cut shell casts patterns of light on the floor. The game quickly teaches how to the ball can attract and repel objects- actions that make concentric circles of blue light expand out from it. Tiny blue dots litter the landscape and are collected, hovering around the sphere when picked up. When the game finally leads you into the large, glass, modernist structures that house the game’s puzzles the shift in tone to blinding whites is stunning.
InFlux‘s sounds also help create the game’s great mood. The music is filled with slow synths and electronic instruments properly used. While no one tune is particularly memorable, it’s done well enough to provide the right texture. The pinging sound effect that comes from collecting blue dots contrasts perfectly with the bass ones that are made when repelling and attracting.
As pretty as InFlux‘s world is, the sphere’s abilities aren’t used just to navigate it. The game’s challenge comes from solving spatial puzzles that come in two flavors. The first are the more common glass case puzzles. These glass cases are placed throughout the world and gate forward progress, but are accessible only after collecting a small amount of the blue orbs littered throughout the surrounding area. Inside them, players roll around the bright space and attempt to roll marble-like balls into areas that match the color of the marbles. This doesn’t just consist of dragging or pushing the marble along though, but changing the orientation of the room. Rolling across pads does this, changing gravity and allowed players to move forward as they aim and let the marble drop onto catwalks and over ledges into the goal. I found myself unable to discern what direction the pads would move the room in before I used them, often resulting in me meta-thinking about the room’s design and figuring out solutions that way. I also noted in my preview for this game that I was hoping for harder rooms. While the challenge of them ramps up, it’s such a slow rise that by the end they started to feel disappointingly rote.
The second type of puzzles are fewer are farther between: those that take place in the verdant world. Like the glass case puzzles, their main goal is to bring an object somewhere, often to a vent or some other hole. While I did run into trouble with one when the game didn’t do a good job of telegraphing that there was a puzzle to be solved, these were all fairly easy. The biggest problem I had with these “outside” puzzles was maneuvering. While the game’s movement mechanics are great for managing the mostly slow-paced glass case locations, InFlux‘s design feels as if it sometimes asks more from the movement than that movement is equipped to give. Crossing a gap by rolling up a ramp and landing on the opposite side in particular always felt clumsy, even after I had spent a few hours with the game.
While the puzzles of the game have varying levels of quality, exploring the world is without a doubt an enjoyable experience. Rolling around the planet lets you run into left behind artifacts of whatever culture inhabited the place. Finding fire pits, benches, paddle boats on the shores lead me to think about who inhabited the planet before they had disappeared. Unfortunately, the game never shows quite as much interest in those things as I did, giving no response to those thoughts.
While the visual and aural elements of the game are well done, InFlux is a game that mechanically takes many a good first step, but never goes far enough with any of them. The world has scraps of an interesting tale, but not enough to forgive the lackluster puzzles. On the other side of the coin, higher quality puzzles would have made the spares world acceptable as it wouldn’t have been the attraction. As it stands, InFlux left me wanting.
+ Great music
+ Attractive visuals
– Lackluster gameplay
– Puzzles lacking in difficulty
5 and 5.5 are mediocre. These aren’t necessarily bad games, they just don’t do anything that is worth caring about and not worth the time of most people.
InFlux was developed and published by Impromptu Games. It was released July 23rd, 2013 at the price of $9.99. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.