What have The Beatles’ Please Please Me, Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, and Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris all got in common?
That’s right point dexter, they were all brilliant debuts that took the world by storm, catapulting their respective creators to instant stardom. And while Crazy Robot’s first game, The Infinity Project, hasn’t exactly met with the same rabid reception, hand on heart, it does deserve a place among the esteemed examples above.
Unfortunately overshadowed by Gameloft’s much hyped N.O.V.A on release, this eerily similar sci-fi shooter is a labour of love by a husband and wife development team (everybody, aww); yet despite these humble beginnings and an infinitely more modest budget, the end result is a highly polished, action-packed and absolutely humongous adventure.
An indie title with blockbuster sensibilities, TIP begins with an impressive, scene-setting, opening movie. Cast as Commander Ethan Avery, you’ve been sent to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding Earth’s loss of communication with a top-secret military research station.
It’ll hardly come as much of a surprise to the average FPS afficionado to find Infinity has been over-run by a heavily armed alien invaders (the ominous sounding Talon’s). Or that they’re not exactly best pleased to see you.
Cue some of the best shoot ’em up action yet to grace the iPlatform…
If you’ve played either of Gameloft’s first-person outings, TIP‘s control scheme feels instantly familiar, thus is comfortable to use. A virtual joystick is used to move, there’s a nice big button for shooting, and dragging your finger across the screen allows you to look around.
While the graphics are suitably gorgeous and the frequent gun-fights enjoyable, honestly we’ve seen it all before, and instead it’s Crazy Robot’s refreshingly different take on somewhat hackneyed material that allows this game to stand out from the more well established or flashier FPS’s.
Rather than take the bombastic, all guns blazing, approach, TIP is an understated and more cerebral affair. With an emphasis on free-roaming exploration, as opposed to mindless blasting, the game does away with the floating directional arrow à la N.O.V.A., and instead you must use a sophisticated GPS device to help find your way through the sprawling, maze-like, network of corridors.
At first it’s a confusing system, but once you get the hang of it TIP becomes all the more absorbing, this strategic placement of markpoints adding depth and injecting the proceedings with a sense of realism.
This level of finesse extends to most other areas of the game, such as the commendable voice acting – instructions are given in unnerving monotone by Captain Onora Zorion (think a female HAL 9000) – and there are some jumpy moments as enemies randomly beam in Star Trek style. Also, boss battles are brilliant and the space station setting is enormous.
It’s not all plain sailing however. Disappointingly not a drop of blood is spilled during shoot-outs, while the old-skool, this door is locked, find the key, style of play eventually gets tiresome and feels a tad dated.
The key feature missing from an otherwise stellar game, though, and one that might potentially alienate FPS fanatics, is the lack of multiplayer deathmatches. Eliminate pioneered them, N.O.V.A. perfected them, and resultantly iDevice gamers expect them. So fingers crossed Crazy Robot see fit to implement this feature in a future update or sequel. That said, the lengthy single-player adventure is still great fun and well worth the current bargain bin asking price.
iFanzine Verdict:Best described as the thinking man’s N.O.V.A., The Infinity Projectbravely takes on the big guns and emerges unscathed. Based on this evidence, Crazy Robot’s sophomore effort will go to infinity and beyond…!