What happens when you combine Temple Run with a cheesy Syfy-esque plot? A truly strange game. Infinity Runner is a bizarre little thing, a former PC exclusive that has stumbled on the PlayStation 4 to fulfill a niche I didn’t think was popular enough to warrant a multiplatform release. I’d like to say that Infinity Runner puts a clever spin on the mobile friendly genre, but I cannot muster the insincerity to do so.
The silly nonsense begins as the player, a silent protagonist, is awoken by an anthropomorphized AI (looking like a reject from the classic Reboot television show) and told to run for their life through a massive starship owned and operated by some Wayland-Yutani-esque corporation. Judging by the great distances the player covers in each stage, the ship’s length significantly dwarfs Spaceball One and is made up entirely of elongated corridors connected to a series of utility rooms, cryo chambers, and storage arenas. There’s no room to explore anything as you are constantly pushed forward at great speed with interaction limited to choosing a direction of a branching path and avoiding an eclectic mix of obstacles. To make the game’s hallway sections feel less monotonous, a series of blue opaque “datapacks” litter the corridors like rings in a Sonic game. They serve no purpose other than to give you something to do (and collecting enough grants an extra life); they don’t unlock backstory or provide any insight into the minds that created the intergalactic vessel.
A brief side note: when the player encounters a branching path, I assumed that each offered a different path or, at least, new obstacles. This is a false promise. I struggled with an area early on in the game (because of the dodgy controls) after taking the left path. With each retry, I kept taking the same path. Finally, after numerous failures, I took the right path only to discover that it offered the exact same obstacles as the left path.
Another brief side note: What I find especially amusing about the sort of obstacles you’ll encounter during a level are instances in which the character has to jump across a massive gap created by an off screen explosion, exposing the area to the terrible vacuum of space. During this grand, dramatic jump, starships weave around floating debris for no apparent reason. At no point does the game answer the mystery of how the player can navigate an area sans protection and oxygen.
Another brief, brief side note: I don’t want to play this game anymore.
Each stage is built using a supply of modular rooms and pitfalls. Getting from level to level involves running along a series of hallways marked by obstacles that require vaulting over or under and leaning left to right. These hallways serve as bridges to larger rooms occupied by more elaborate obstructions. No matter the level, the scenarios are the same: a runaway cargo transport, a loose hanging ceiling panel, and exploding pipes appear in every stage regardless of the level’s setting. The ship’s squad of “terror” troops pop up on occasion, and taking them out is as simple as successfully completing a quick time event. The AI points out that these individuals represent the best and most terrifying troops the in-game corporation has to offer but in reality, they are nothing more than a palette swap of the game’s earlier human enemies.
But what about the werewolves? For a game whose tile on the PlayStation 4’s XMB prominently features a furry beast, could this be the game that finally fills the Space Lycanthrope void? No, sadly. The werewolf conceit is nothing more than an empty bolt-on of game design. I’m left to question whether or not its inclusion were a means to make the game stand out among the substantial catalog of endless runners on the console or the result of a drunken boast. “Oh yeah? Well fuck you, our game has a werewolf in it!” Followed by a hasty, “Hey, Bob! Let the player turn into a werewolf. I know it doesn’t make sense, just do it!” As a victim of Evil Co.’s scientific experimentation, the player can collect a special item that transforms them into the titular werebeast with higher speed, strength, and agility. None of this really matters. The most immediate benefit is not having to lean left or right to collect datapacks and performing QTEs against enemies. For something that’s supposed to make you more powerful, you never feel empowered, just slightly less inconvenienced. And if werewolves in space couldn’t be any more impractical or inexplicable, the transformation reveals weakened walls that impossibly transport the player into a steel tunnel of sorts stuffed with collectible datapacks. Is this meant to be a bonus round? The game never says. It stands as a testament to the implausible and impossible design of the game’s setting.
A ridiculous premise isn’t the only fault of Infinity Runner. It’s built with a few strange design decisions. The most infuriating is the piss poor control tutorials that pop up right before an obstacle. The text tells you what button to press but not how. When approaching a zip line, the text reads: "Hold the <analog stick icon> stick or <directional pad icon> to zip line." Hold the stick how? Left? Upside down? You’ll waste precious lives trying to suss out the right way to do things and having to repeat whole sections because of such amateur hour shenanigans is more than enough justification to stop playing. Terrible direction isn’t the only issue affecting Infinity Runner. Before a patch was released, an amusing game stopping bug caused the player character to get stuck repeating the combat animation which made turning corners impossible. The patch has fixed the error, though not much else. Damage is strangely inconsistent. Why is it that some laser grids knock down my shields but the rotating lasers kill instantly? Other technical hiccups, such as frequent spelling errors and unfairly obscured obstacles turn Infinity Runner into an example of mediocrity. Trophy hounds are likely to get anything out of the game because of its pedestrian achievements that include turning off the music and subtitles, watching a cutscene, and looking at a menu screen.
In space, nobody can hear you groan. Actually, that’s not true. My wife can tell you how often I’ve laughed and lamented the state of the woefully executed Infinity Runner. I can almost understand what Wales Interactive wanted to do and it might have turned out better if the game had more time to cook. As it exists now, there are much, much better ways to spend $7. You could start a stamp collection, go get a coffee, donate to charity, a few value meals from Jack in the Box, or pick up one of those weird LEGO knockoffs that licensed Halo and Call of Duty. Anything is better than Infinity Runner.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.