Hallowed By Thy Game: Choose Between Good and Evil in Bloody 8-Bit Throwback Adventure Infernax
(Editor’s note: Let’s face it — most metalheads are a buncha nerds. To that end, Hallowed Be Thy Game is a weekly feature here on MetalSucks where we’ll highlight some of the metal-as-fuck board/video/tabletop role playing games we’re playing or have played in the past.)
If there’s one thing I love more than boomer shooters, it’s good side-scrolling adventures. It’s the ‘90s kid in me, growing up with NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis games that are still well renowned today. To cash in on nostalgia, they’re a dime a dozen lately – just like boomer shooters I guess – so it takes a lot for one to stand out. Well, it just so happens we’re talking about one that Gamespot calls “2022’s most metal release so far.”
Infernax is a brutally lovely game made by Quebec City’s Berzerk Studio and published by The Arcade Crew. A complete callback to 2D action-platformers like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (the single most underrated Zelda game) and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (without the overly cryptic horseshit), this is a game that has a distinctive edge to it. You play as Alcedor (or whatever you wanna name him within the confines of ten alphanumeric characters), a young duke returned home from a violent religious crusade to find it overrun with an indelible evil. The righteous men of your order, pious knights and soldiers of valor and chivalry, struggle to defend towns let alone take the fight to the demons, monsters, and apparitions that plague the land of Upel. Will you rise above to exorcise the unholy stain and free the land, or succumb to the darkest of evils and reign in blood over all?
Yes, as implied, this game has a morality system, but it’s subtly applied. Like, almost too subtly. What you may think is a good deed and will notch you higher in the graces of the god you serve and shine light upon you may not be. Evil deeds are a bit more obvious – flood a town killing most of the inhabitants as a result, or take a bribe from nefarious brigands who will assuredly kill others later on because you didn’t waste them first. This morality system is the key to getting one of the game’s nine endings and unlocking many of its secrets. There’s no way of checking what your current morality is as you play, so it’s best to track it yourself with the help of a wiki or other sort of walkthrough.
It’s as hard as you want it to be with a Classic and Casual difficulty. Light RPG elements that have you farming experience to upgrade your health, mana, and strength can be engaged with, or not. You can also find and buy spells, armor, and weapon upgrades to help make your journey down whatever path you choose a bit less frustrating. For those just looking for a fun time, there’s a number of accessibility options and discoverable cheat codes (entered in the in-game Game Wizard, a cute reference to the real-life Game Genie peripherals) to give you an even bigger advantage.
No matter what difficulty or path you choose, the game will be bloody as hell. Killing the simplest of hostile creatures with your mace still yields impressive, over-the-top (at least for an 8-bit game) splatter. Alcedor gets coated in the red stuff quite easily and it only washes off after praying at a statue when you save your progress. You’ll see your fellow men-at-arms get disemboweled by spear-carrying skeletons, their skulls split in half by their axes, or slumped against walls lifeless from previous encounters. Each and every boss explodes like a balloon of blood and gore the likes of which would make GWAR jealous.
The torment isn’t reserved for non-playable characters either – Berzerk Studio went all-out with the death scenes for when you meet your match. While they’re in silhouetted black over a red background (a Zelda II reference), they still don’t leave much to the imagination when you see Alecdor decapitated by a beast, torn to shreds by a feral werewolf, or slammed against a wall at mach 9 turning your body into chunky pink mist. I can’t help but think of ultraviolence purveyors like Cannibal Corpse or, perhaps more fittingly, 3 Inches of Blood with their fantastic take on war, battle, and conquering when I play Infernax because a visceral game calls for visceral music.
Speaking of music, the actual soundtrack is very much indebted to the classics of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Using what I can hear are the same limitations of the 8-bit generation, just with more clarity, composer Jason Létourneau lets loose foreboding and adventurous tunes alike. The title theme has a menacing feel to it calling back to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. The daytime overworld theme has an awesome melody to it that’ll get stuck in your head before you even reach the first castle. Very much rock and metal inspired, it’s all lovingly layered and takes full advantage of the range of sound while complementing its setting and action. You’d be hard-pressed to find better chiptune-based music this year.
The following paragraph has spoilers for secrets and post-game content – skip if you want!
Extra modes and playable characters round out Infernax, like the ability to play as Maxime Gunn, a light machine gun-toting hardcore motherfucker that looks like he spin-jumped out of a Contra game. You even start with 30 lives in an homage to the legendary Konami Code (enter the Konami Code on the title screen to unlock Maxime Gunn early if you want). This game with an overpowered gun is quite easy, yes, but a hell of a fun time, especially when you branch out on story paths unique to the character that involve you time-traveling to the future to quell the demon threat once and for all.
Recently, a free update for the game was released for Halloween that adds The Stranger as a playable character. He’s a machete and shotgun-wielding fellow who looks and feels like Jason Voorhees and Ash Williams had a child. There’s even little easter eggs nodding to Ash and the Evil Dead franchise like The Stranger’s default “armor” being a blue denim shirt with a torn tag that says “S-mar…” and his pose when saving the game is straight out of Army of Darkness with boomstick held high.
Infernax is a labor of love, the type of game that would’ve killed on the NES or Sega Master System back in the day and pissed off a lot of parents, but you can enjoy it with modern console convenience (and, you know, much less slowdown and glitches thanks to advancements). I can’t recommend it more to those that want a fun challenge and don’t mind wiping themselves clean of viscera every few minutes or so. Bring a poncho.
Infernax is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4, and PC via Steam and Xbox Store. It’s also on Xbox Game Pass for consoles and PC, so no reason to not give it a try if you’re a subscriber!