INFRA

Developer: Loiste Interactive | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

This was an excellent first person adventure game exploring various industrial environments such as e.g. water plants, dam, power plants, factories, etc. As a hard hat structural analyst with a funny accent, I had to take photos of everything that needed to be repaired. Various puzzles (typically electrical in nature) had to be solved to open doors and gain access to the later parts of the locations.

The game had three acts and was enormous. I understand that there was only one act to begin with, and the two other acts were added in sort of an episodic manner. The end result has more than 40 maps made in the Source engine (the same that powered Half-Life 2) and each of them are really big. It took me almost 30 hours to get through the entire game. But it was exquisite almost all the way. The factories and plants were well put together and felt realistic – it wasn’t just random pipes and wires going wherever.

Probably the only thing that annoyed me at first was having to find batteries to replenish my phone camera and my flashlight. Especially in the first area inside a dam I was often running out and had to rummage all drawers and meticulously search control rooms for more batteries. Luckily my supplies eventually got stocked up as the maps went by, although there was a cap of ten packs for each type.

The level design of the game was a mix of open and linear. Each map was a contained area typically with a lot of locked doors. Some had to be opened by finding access cards, keys, or some cute passage around. At one point enough of the facility opened up to offer access to a lot of halls, control rooms, offices, corridors, and staircases. Some maps opened up ever so slightly bit by bit, while others offered almost the entire factory after a door or two. Apart from taking snapshots, some larger machinery often had to be fixed and turned on. It could be getting the water flowing in a plant or moving a big cradle inside a steel factory. But sometimes it also felt like I left incompletely fixed machinery behind as I found a way to the next map.

In fact, optional puzzles and passages were not uncommon in this game. An example of this was a corridor with electricity leading into the shallow water on the floor. Stepping in this would kill me. I had to arrange crates to walk on in order to reach a switch further down, but I could also just walk back to the opposite end, climb up to a roof grating, and then crawl and drop down near the same switch.

These choices were part of what made the game feel so well engineered.

The actual puzzles themselves were dominated by electrical panels, buttons to open or close locks, turning pipe valves, even clicking on/off buttons on a computer screen. Hearing machines slowly start up and some liquid once again flowing through a pipe was a recurring experience.

It wasn’t all factories and plants, however. Some of the later maps went into tunnels, via canals, through sewers with phosphorescent (and quite poisonous) fungus, a metro, etc. There were also timed challenges. Sometimes the roof came crashing down or a fire broke lose and I had to run for my life. I steered through an underground river on a raft. And I drove a trolley several times as well as a big tram.

I even used a speedboat towards the end.

But apart from a boring meeting in the very beginning, I was usually alone. No humans, no monsters. It was for the most part fine, even though it seemed odd at times finding so many empty offices with computers switched on and half-eaten burgers left behind. Sometimes it gave me Bermuda Triangle vibes.

Dissecting

So it was once again back to a video game with unrealistically weak batteries in the camera phone and the flashlight. I had to swap them out several times during each map. It gave a reason to check every corner, but it also made a stark contrast to the realistic surroundings.

Ladders worked exactly like in Half-Life 2 – I could fall down if not careful.    I like mounting better.

Luckily our hard hat protagonist, Mark, was not the mute type and sometimes even called the office to report on his latest findings. I actually liked his weird accent and never got tired of him adding “Someone should get that fixed” or “That’s not good” whenever I took a photo of something broken.

Apart from taking photos of broken things such as leaking pipes or rusty wiring showing through cement walls, I also had to take photos of documents found. Some technical, some with complaints about how the factory was run, etc. Reading these documents and also product names on objects and walls was often humorous. Real trademark names were poetically reordered.

Pepsi = Septi. Coca-Cola = Moca-Cola. Nokia = Nykiö. Haribo = Huribo. Samsung = Seamans. And so on.

Our hero jumped worse than my mother, but luckily it wasn’t used much either. By far most of any athletic movement required could be done by “mounting up” on a box or a ledge. There was one unfair exception where I had to jump from white boxes to a ledge below an open window. For some reason a longer jump was exceptionally required here, and I just couldn’t do it. Then I discovered that holding down the modifier for sprint, the left Shift key, prevented the jump button from working too. I had to hold down the right Shift key instead for both sprint and jump to work at the same time.

This new discovery about making the combination of sprint and jump work with the opposite Shift key actually backfired a bit later. I had just made a bascule bridge go down and wanted to cross it, but a gate door was closed. I then actually succeeded in speed jumping across a corner of the gate and onto the bridge. This turned out to be pointless as I couldn’t get past the barrier on the other side. I had to speed jump back and do the puzzle that opened the gate door. This also lifted that barrier.

But truth be told, the level design was usually watertight – it was pretty much the only exception I saw, and I usually tried escaping like a rabid dog in all the areas I got stuck in. (If it works, it works!)

I quickly learned that touching water immediately killed me. I’ve seen this behavior in games before, so I just assumed that entering water was completely out of the question, period. This was also true for a major part of the game. Then I came to that area with the hacker den by the canal with dead fish. I was stuck for quite some time and was really wondering what I had overlooked. Further down the canal, however, was some shallow water to an inner part, and it was actually possible to walk there.

It then turned out that shallow water was in fact acceptable and used frequently from then on.

That actually made me a little cross. The game had made a great deal out of water being very dangerous for a long time, and then they had a change of heart and allowed a shallow depth all of a sudden? It made me think of that time far into Deadfall Adventures where a QTE was suddenly introduced after a multitude of completely detached cutscenes.

Developers, please don’t do that. Make it clear from the beginning what we can and cannot do.

Spoiler: Click

It was clear that the developers tried really hard to have some unique variations on puzzle solutions. In that regard, the game certainly never got stale. Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Smash the window in a door and throw a brick at a button inside the room to open a sewer sluice.
  • Turn off wireless radios and LAN switches to remove interference around radio-controlled doors.
  • Turning on a fan to blow an electrical wire away from a poodle of water.
  • Carrying a fuming teddy and boot nearby smoke detectors in order to stop an overhead fan.
  • Descending a set of scaffolding really fast in order to reach a gate before a timer closed it.
  • Placing a parking ticket on a car that had been improved to automatically park somewhere else.
  • Reading a note on a door about a bird fleeing with a key, then finding the key in a nest.
  • Bribing a gate control with a childish drawn passport and a sixpack of beers.
  • Collecting bottles and cans for a refund machine to earn coins for a greedy elevator.
  • Loosening bolts in a wooden bridge suspended by wires, in order to let down one end to the ground.
  • Adjust pipes then flush a toilet three times to extinguish a fireplace that I could then crawl through.
  • Put firewood in an oven and light it with matches to pump up water from a flooded tunnel.
  • Placing a speedboat engine on a boat then using it to navigate a flooded maze of wheat fields.
  • And much more – some elaborated below.

And then there were the elevators. By a tall set of scaffolding, I had to start an elevator at half power in order to outrun it by climbing the scaffolding in time for jumping on top of its roof. And in another place, I had to immediately turn the brake handle in a falling elevator to screamingly decelerate it.

Elevators were often quite dangerous in this game.

I read in a user review that the raft sequence in the underground river could be tough, but I didn’t have any problems. I could steer it by walking to each side, and quicksave made it easy to get back on track.

There was one harsh sequence where an area was flooded with dangerous fumes. I had to run between small “islands” of ventilation pipes pointing up. It took quite a few quickloads to run this successfully.

One sequence that made a solid impression was turning on crane hooks for an enormous cradle in a steel factory, with me slowly riding the cradle to the lower parts of the factory. That felt really epic.

A fun diversion in an office building was calling a few telephone numbers on a public wall phone. I actually ordered some beer that way, and it was in fact delivered to the office much later. The game didn’t allow me to drink any of it, though.

Oh, I really liked that puzzle with the broken forklift. A wheel was flat and another one missing, so it was clear this thing wasn’t going anywhere on its own. Nevertheless I had to find diesel and fill it up, add a new car battery to it, use a ceiling crane with a barrel to push its fork below a closed gate, then use the engine on the fork lift itself to lift up the gate.

That’s how to make a really satisfying puzzle.

I rode a big tram with four gears past metro stations at one point. Hands up all those that drove it too fast and missed getting a snapshot of something broken as it whizzed past, then slowed down the tram for the remainder of the ride. I didn’t want to miss anything else.

Trying to cross metro train tracks meant instant death from electrocution. In fact, the developers used all the tricks in the book to keep the player from slinking past something. Extended grating, stuff piled up, hot steam – you name it, they probably used it.

One puzzle that totally failed my logic was the one where I had to set both a start and a stop timer for a fan to shut down in a ventilation shaft. I did see the clock on the wall through a window, but I couldn’t make it stop the fan no matter how I adjusted it according to the current time. I then resorted to good old trial-and-error, and suddenly, the fan stopped.

The hour numbers I ended up on still made no sense to me.

There were several places with a small trolley to ride on underground rail tracks. It had one gear forward or backward. These sections reminded me a lot of similar levels in the original Half-Life. Sometimes I had to get out and switch tracks. There was one spot where the place to park the trolley first led through a locked gate that I couldn’t unlock, so I just completed the rest of the map on foot.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the statistics show that a lot of players did the same thing.

A big puzzle surprise was that “MulEx CoPan” machine for making coffee. A crazy machine right out of a Professor Balthazar cartoon had to be repaired with valves and fuses, have colored cans placed in holders, buttons adjusted, after which a sip of the cup of coffee produced made the entire world black and white. The longest version of this made a static monster sort of open a door for me. Woah, dude.

As mentioned before, I never met any people outside of the meetings. While true, the developers liked to get really close at times. There was once chamber I entered where a homeless guy was sitting in a sofa below the walkway I was on. Trying to get over there through a pit made me crash something down in such a noisy manner, it made the guy run away scared. In the later acts, more people could be seen but usually always behind fences or windows where I couldn’t reach them.

In another map, I had to turn on and fix big steam engines. I found a radio and actually had a guy called Robin direct me around, telling me how to turn on valves and press buttons. Then he admitted to having made a big mistake and it all came crashing down on top of me. Nevertheless I ran up a staircase and repaired a ventilation system via a control panel to save his life, wherever he actually was.

Cause that’s just the kind of guy I am! 😉

Much later in the game I came to a block of flats. He talked to me through his front door about wanting to give me a gift. I had to find a small tube for him which I then threw in his letterbox.

Wandering the slightly flooded city in the third act took place in an abundance of darkness which eventually sucked my supply of flashlight batteries dry. When I finally came back to the office for the second meeting of the game, I was running on the last batteries. Fortunately I was given a new super flashlight by my boss. He claimed it lasted for days. I never saw the battery indicator go down on it.

He also mentioned that it could temporarily boost the light, but I never figured out how to do that.

The climax of the game took place in a nuclear power plant, and I actually hesitated before embarking upon this because I just knew it would be packed with stressful tasks under timer. Turned out I was right. I hate being right about this all the time. In fact, there were two such maddening sequences.

But as an extra bonus, this was also wrapped with an annoying crane hall.

I really hated that crane puzzle for a long time, but it turned out that I was an idiot for having overlooked the obvious solution. The crane was suspended on tracks just below the ceiling above enormous partly flooded generators. I could move a big piece of walkway across most of this hall, but I couldn’t figure out how to place it in order to reach other walkways. I really tried hard to corner it, sometimes lowering it just enough for me to sprint jump on top of it and then further down. But again, the level design was tight and both invisible walls as well as instantaneous death triggers kept me at bay.

After having slept on it, I slapped myself for having overlooked the obvious beam on top of the crane that I could cross the hall on. I normally always figure this stuff out right away. So I guess that’s on me.

Luckily this was followed up by a lovely puzzle turning on three power generators and then synchronizing their engines by adjusting the speed of a needle to stand still at the top mark.

This was the quiet before the storm.

In the first timer task I had to find red fuses and buttons for two pump stations, increase their power level with adjustment buttons, then run up to a control room and hit a final button to buy some time.

Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately so many things worked against me to make it way more stressful than it needed to be. First, the hall had a confusing array of doors and staircases. Just finding the two damn pump stations took a long time. I then had to fix each of them with those fuses and buttons, rummaging through corners, drawers and staircases, all while a voice in the radio got more aggravating as the time ran out and the alarms got increasingly more insisting. This was exactly what I was afraid the nuclear plant map would cough up.

In fact, all those sub tasks were so plentiful and had to be orchestrated in such a perfect order that I just had to save scum it. Typically I ran around searching for a pump station. Found it. Excellent. Quickload, run in a beeline to it, quicksave. I then figured out what it needed to be repaired. Two red fuses. Good. I then ran around searching for fuses. As soon as I found one, I quickloaded, ran in a beeline to the fuse, grabbed it, then ran straight back to the pump station and plugged it in. Quicksave.

I save scummed it all like that – and to be honest, I’m not sure I could have solved it without.

Unfortunately the second timer task was just as stringent. I came to a small chamber with movement buttons for sliding or rotating a control pole across a grid of reactor rods. This grid was a mix of red and green lamps. All the green ones represented rods that needed to be handled. Lots of moving the pole forth and back, sometimes rotating it to reach the furthest ends. It was slow, the mechanism started to break down with sparks, and the voice in the radio even scolded me if I accidentally handled a red lamp.

I got it in my second attempt, but holy clusterfluff did it have to be a near perfect run.

Somehow it’s sad that such a relaxing game had to end on such high notes. And all it took for me to realize it was to read a list of map names and learn that the last one took place in a nuclear power plant. Sigh.

There were three endings. One was if the reactor had a meltdown. Another one was for saving the reactor, but failing to snapshot enough broken stuff. Luckily I had taken photos of more than 50% in all three acts, and that gave me a good ending in a nice apartment.

Oh look, Robin made me a coffee machine!

And yes, the game was far too long. The amount of hours would have been expected for e.g. a big RPG, but for its type of genre, it was too much. If I had been the developers I would have split it up into two games, each with a smaller price tag, but with a bigger combined total.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
INFRA
2016 Loiste Interactive

29h

11

2019-05-01
2019-05-12
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

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