InFlux is a puzzle game that mixes exploration and puzzle platforming in a series of beautiful natural and abstract environments. You are a mysterious metal sphere which falls from the sky, traversing an apparently deserted island dotted with cubic structures of glass and steel. Each glasshouse is a puzzle to be solved.
What We Think:
InFlux is a puzzle platformer in which you play as a ball. Those who have played games such as Marble Blast on XBLA (a title that was, sadly, discontinued) will have an inkling of what to expect from InFlux. You can control the ball using the keyboard and mouse or with a gamepad; the latter is a more elegant choice for InFlux for obvious reasons. The game has you guiding the ball through two distinct kinds of environments, exploring and puzzling, to roll your way to victory.
The one game mode in InFlux is a progressive set of puzzles organised into a kind of adventure. Unlike many puzzle games of this type, InFlux doesn’t have such a clear cut between each challenge and you actually navigate the world of the game as you progress from puzzle to puzzle. This is done primarily by alternating between the two aforementioned environments, providing a variety of backdrop while splitting the puzzles up into distinguishable sections.
Valley of the Balls
The environment you begin in is an aesthetically stunning world set on a natural and somewhat mysterious island. You must help the ball navigate rugged and rocky terrain, overcoming obstacles like blocked paths and large jumps. This main world varies throughout the game, taking the player through dark caves, beautiful hilltops and strange abandoned villages.
While there are platforming challenges in the overworld the main task before the player is to collect small glowing sprites that must be led to the objective to unlock the next puzzle section. These sprites are spread across the environment but it’s never particularly tricky to obtain a sufficient number to unlock the next area. You can collect the sprites by using your main power which draws nearby objects towards you. This part of the game could benefit from a little more challenge to make it more engaging and take it beyond being a mere sight-seeing tour.
The bulk of the actual challenge and puzzle gameplay takes place in puzzle sections of the world which are contained within glass structures made up of square panels. These structures are placed in the overworld where they serve as dimly lit anomalies in the otherwise quite natural terrain. Once you access one of these structures you’ll be placed within a brightly lit version of the building in a kind of ethereal realm separated from the overworld.
The glass structures contain a variety of puzzles ranging from rotating the whole structure with switches to fans that blow you up in the air (this makes for some entertaining platforming gameplay). Most puzzles involve using your powers of attraction and repulsion to drag or push larger balls into color coordinated goals. Once you have placed the appropriate orbs in the right goal areas you will be able to exit the glass structure. Leaving the structure places you back in the overworld on the other side of the dimly lit glass building you entered.
The puzzle gameplay is well designed and it ranges from fairly easy to quite challenging. The game would benefit from some more detailed introductions to some of the mechanics but generally you’ll get the hang of things quite quickly. The platforming gameplay keeps things varied but it would be good to see a little more responsiveness in the controls as it often feels like you’re heaving the ball in the direction you want it to go rather than speedily rolling it around.
Sphere and Loathing
Currently the biggest problem facing InFlux is optimisation. The game runs shakily at best even on a relatively strong machine and there is a serious problem with memory usage that can slow your computer down to a crawl. Trying to shut the game down was a chore each time I played it and it took several minutes for things to get back up to speed even after I had managed to forcibly close the program. The developer mentions this issue in the attached readme and we can hope that the issue will be resolved as new updates come along. It’s an unfortunate price to pay for the attractive world that has been sculpted in InFlux.
Round Here, Something Radiates
InFlux is a relaxing game with some beautiful environments and a mysterious atmosphere. It features some strong puzzles and platform challenges which are enjoyable to overcome. Unfortunately the game still feels like it has a way to go as the overworld environments lack an engaging sense of gameplay and the puzzle areas themselves sometimes lack important tutorial information. Most notably the game often struggles to run and it is hard to recommend it until this issue is fully resolved. That said, InFlux is visually stunning and there is potential here for a well presented and enjoyable puzzle/exploration game.