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Shuuda avatar 12:27 PM on 08.06.2013  (server time)
Impressions of InFlux

InFlux is a puzzle platforming game developed by a small group going by the name Impromptu Games, an indie development team based in Australia. InFlux invites you to explore a deserted landscape, solving puzzles in an abstract world. The game is advertised as very relaxing and mind-bending, but does it meet up to expectation in a genre already saturated with an excellent array of titles?

In InFlux you take control of a ball from outer space. You roll around what looks like a volcanic island in search of puzzles to solve. These puzzles take place in two realms, one set on the island and another in a succession of glass houses apparently floating around in space. The game's light on story to the point of having virtually none at all. At least there's no interruption to the game-play. The ball has various powers, including the ability to attract and repel certain objects as well as a speed boost which slows time down as you charge it.

Puzzles in the outdoor areas usually involve navigating the terrain and using the attraction power to find and carry a bunch of floating lights in order to open the way to the next self contained puzzles. These areas are mostly linear, but do sometimes have branching paths. Indoor puzzles mostly require you to use the magnetic powers to guide another ball through a maze, pressing buttons that tilt the room or manipulate some part of it.

The description I read for InFlux made a bit of a hoopla over the environments, but I was quite underwhelmed by them. While they're by no means offensive or bad they don't exactly capture my imagination either. When I started out on the beach I had high hopes for the relaxing aesthetic, and I suppose that's what the game gave me for a while, but I found myself wishing it had wowed me a bit more. When I moved into the forest I could not help notice how outdated the trees seemed to look. I came across torches and huts, but they did not serve any purpose and most of them were just duplicates of one model. I will compliment the range of different areas in this short game and how it transitions between them however.

The self contained puzzle areas have a more clean and clinical appearance, but ultimately feel rather dull and repetitive. Some of the effects, like the lights coming out of the ball, are nice, but don't really make this game especially nice to look at.
What was alarming however is despite this game not being visually impressive it stuttered a lot while moving around the different sections. In a game which has an emphasis on moving around this is a severe problem. I would occasionally find myself losing control whenever the game caused me a stutter while it was loading. Even when on lower settings I constantly saw the little loading circle turning in the bottom corner.

Something else that bothered me to no end about InFlux was how the movement felt. In one word it's sluggish. When I'm inching up a small incline that's not brain-bending puzzle action or anything fascinating, that's just the game being tedious and slow. The boost felt hard to use and I'll even admit that the movement made me a bit motion sick after a while (which put a wrench in the whole relaxation angle of the game). The movement of other objects is no better. In the self contained puzzles where I had to drag a ball from one place to another what kept me in these areas was not he challenge of the puzzle but rather the fact the ball I had to drag would fall off a ledge and I would have to expend greater effort to recover it. Again, not exactly warping my perception of reality.

In fact, none of InFlux's puzzles felt really interesting. The outdoor areas boiled down to “find the little lights and shift some boulders out of your way”, and the self contained puzzled are “Guide a ball from one place to another” with a few switches that flip the room on its side. Now, the relative simplicity of the puzzles would not bother me but InFlux is rather boring. If you're going to be a one trick pony of a game then you at least need your trick to be entertaining. InFlux isn't it's sad to say.

On top of the dull puzzles, InFlux also feels like it lacks character and atmosphere. I feel the game is trying to go for the artistic angle, but it fails to impress. Strange things happen during the ball's busy adventure, things involving a whale for some reason. There's little context for what's going on though. InFlux never got a big reaction from me. The end result is that this game is lacking anything special. It's not mind-bending like Antichamber, it doesn't have the M.C. Escher visuals of The Bridge, nor the humour of Portal.

It feels like the Dear Esther of puzzle games. I suppose the fact that InFlux has actual game-play means it one-ups that sight seeing tour, but I feel many of the same issues still apply. I don't want to use the word pretentious, but this game feels like it's trying too hard to be “artistic” and as a result is lacking in other area, such as diversity and fun. Perhaps if it were not for my own feeble vulnerability to motion sickness then I could have experienced the more relaxing side of the game, but you're going to have to read elsewhere for comments on that.

Ultimately, InFlux fails to make a strong impression on me and therefore I just can't give it an solid recommendation. It's not really bad, but there's nothing that stands out about it either. Even if you're the kind of person who really enjoys puzzle games then there's no shortage of great titles out there for you. If you're in serious need of another puzzle platformer then you can pick this game up from for the price of $9.99. InFlux also has a Steam Greenlight page where you can vote for it to be on Steam. You can check out the official Impromptu Games website for more information.

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