“I wish I had a cigarette.”
The last words of an abductee that’s gone before me, they have long since perished in this icy tundra, their last act, hiding in a desperate attempt to escape our alien captors, to stop building these infernal machines. As I listen to their final moments play out, recorded to a failure log, I am determined, I will not give up, I am strong, I will surv…ok, listen, I’ve been trying to complete this level for about three hours now and I’m starting to think a cigarette and freezing to death seems like a pretty good idea.
Infinifactory, the latest game from Zachtronics, the creators of Spacechem and Infiniminer, is a sandbox puzzler which sees you abducted from your car by aliens and forced to use your beautiful human mind to engineer ever more complex factory systems in order to successfully deliver various products for those who have snatched you from earth.
What starts off simply enough with one block being sent from point A to B via a line or two of simple conveyor belts, very quickly descends into building everything from plasma cannons to tanks to spaceships via nightmarishly intricate matrices of welding beams, sensors, teleporters, rotators, pushers and pullers and…God, I wish I had a cigarette.
Let’s make no bones about it, Infinifactory is a difficult game, but its difficulty is assuaged by the freeform nature of its puzzles, there is no one way to do things here, you are given a refreshing degree of freedom to figure out how to create each of the blueprints sent your way. You may only have a total of 18 different tools at your disposal, and for much of the game far fewer than this, but the ways in which you can implement them are pretty much endless.
And herein lies the real joy of Infinifactory, it’s not just an ingeniously designed puzzle game, it gives you the space and freedom to feel like a proper designer of actual functioning machines, each puzzle’s solution reduced to a mere catalyst for your imagination to explode into action across the five stages included here.
Controls for placing the various blocks required to complete puzzles are very similar to that found in Minecraft’s creation mode and work well on PS4, despite the odd misplaced or accidentally deleted block or two, I had no problems whatsoever in navigating my hideously complex creations. You can also fly around levels using a jetpack, a skill which becomes increasingly useful as the levels become bigger and your conveyor belts start to snake over multiple levels.
The story is slight but fun, it even manages to wedge in moments of black comedy and gives Zachtronics an excuse to present levels in a variety of well realised and pretty alien locales. Over the course of the game you’ll build your contraptions on barren, icy clifftops, asteroids and alien forests.
The importance of the sandbox element of the game is highlighted further by the fact that each puzzle comes with three slots in which to save your solutions as you complete them. At the end of each level you’re presented with a results screen spilt into three sections; Cycles, Footprint and Block Score, all of which can be compared to other players and, more importantly, your PSN friends, creating a nice bit of rivalry as well as spurring you on, ensuring the joy of the game lies in more than just solving a template and moving to the next. The real game here, and the one which fans of Spacechem and Inifiniminer will revel in, is the endless tweaking and perfecting of your creations.
In many ways your first solution to a puzzle is simply a rough draft on which to build towards the ultimate version of each of your factory production lines, you’ll keep coming back, refining things and cutting away at those cycles, footprints and block scores until you’re satisfied you’ve done your best.
There is, however, a point in Infinifactory where I think all but the most hardcore fans of Zachtronics’ brand of puzzler will most likely have jettisoned, this game gets super difficult, but this isn’t to say that more casual puzzle fan won’t find plenty to enjoy here. The successful completion of each level, through the sheer creative freedom afforded to you, gives a real feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that the solution you have devised in order to realise a blueprint will most probably be unique to you, especially later on in the game, is a rare delight in a puzzler, there is no one right way to reach the answer and as such you can spend countless hours creating perfect delivery systems.
There is zero handholding and a welcome lack of text boxes, videos or narration in order to impart the skills required to exceed in your endeavours and it speaks to the clever design here that you don’t need them.
For £18.99 there is a lot of game here and I reckon it’s a must-buy for hardcore puzzle fans. However I have no problems in recommending Infinifactory to the casual puzzle fan, there is much satisfaction and pride to be taken from solving the puzzles contained here and creating the most perfect, beautiful machines you can for your alien overlords. I mean, they shoot dry, turd-shaped food pellets from a hole in your cell for you to feast on every night, it’s the least you could do, human scum.
Infinifactory is out now on PS4 and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a code from the publisher.