In Infernal Radiation a reactor connected to hell explodes because a pope from space pooped in it.
Whilst the idea of power from hell being used to solve humanity’s energy crisis isn’t entirely new, it’s something that has the potential for interesting plots. Humankind being so desperate to find another source of power that they look to pry it from a place that would willingly consume their souls gives the scope for tales of horror, suffering, and even action — here’s to you, Doom 2016! Then there’s Infernal Radiation, a game in which you visit an island that has suffered at the hands of an exploding hell reactor, resulting in the local populace being possessed by demons. It sounds — and looks — like it should be a horror game. Maybe it’s meant to be, but between Infernal Radiation’s bizarre story, confusing characters and incongruous environment, nothing seems to come together.
You play as Cardinal Godspeed — yes, really — who has arrived on Halloween Island to rescue the survivors and find out what happened. You’ll fight demons to free the humans, only to find out what led to them being possessed in the first place. This is what made me question whether this was meant to be a horror game or not. Whilst the atmosphere is dark and horrific, the characters seem silly and over-the-top, such as the engineer who is literally Dracula. But then they tell you stories of abuse and suicide and the silliness flips right back to horror. I can’t quite figure out what Infernal Radiation is trying to be.
This wouldn’t be such an issue if the gameplay was particularly well done. This is, at its heart, a boss rush game. You walk around the island, reading notes and gathering money before taking on the next demon. Combat has you left-clicking to attack and right-clicking to defend. Occasionally you might press space to use holy water which acts as a power attack. And that’s about it. There’s no moving, dodging, or picking attacks. You click at the right time and there’s nothing else to it.
You can only attack and defend when your character glows green, and if you try to do anything when you aren’t highlighted then you have to wait longer to be ready to act again. You’re encouraged to block and attack in a rhythm to maximise your damage, but the windows for reacting are really quite small, and being hit reduces your combo causing your damage output to decrease vastly. It’s frustrating, as there are times where you’ll be getting constantly attacked, meaning all you can do is block as your combo drains away, and a missed block results in you being hit over and over again, often to the point you’ll die.
Once the rhythm was down and while the game feels like it plays fair, there are times when it almost approaches fun, but then you’ll get slapped by another round of nonstop attacks and it’s back to square one. At least you can restart battles immediately if you die. There are ways to make things a touch easier, by leveling up, and buying prayers that can heal you mid-battle — although the tutorial did a bad job of explaining how they worked. But it never really clicked with me to the point I would have a good time.
I can at least be positive about the demon designs. They’re varied and interesting to look at, ranging from small, humanoid creatures, to monsters made entirely out of legs. Some of them seem to tie into the odd stories that the rescued humans then tell, although this wasn’t all that common. The same can’t really be said about the island, which is pretty drab and samey. Then there’s the sound, which was just maddening. Godspeed makes the same couple of chants constantly during battle, and mistiming a button press resulting in bizarre 16-bit sound effects that are completely at odds with everything else. The music is about as generic as it comes too.
I really wish there was something to like in Infernal Radiation, but everything grated. An island that was no fun to explore, characters and stories that flitted wildly between serious, and silly, and a combat system that was more of a chore than a challenge. Credit to the model designers, as there’s something well made there, but the rest of this needs a lot of work.
Infernal Radiation is currently out on Steam and coming soon to Nintendo Switch.