PAX East 2020: Infernax combines Zelda II & Castlevania in the best way

PAX East 2020 Infernax preview Berzerk Studio

I often use the phrase “gamers of a certain age” around here. In the context, it’s clear that I mean folks who spent their formative years playing the Nintendo Entertainment System and perhaps the Super Nintendo. These are the people who will remember firsthand just how big of a deal it was that Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was so big that the map of the original game fit on one overworld screen. Or that Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest had a day/night cycle and a full world to freely explore. And they certainly remember the hubbub around Mortal Kombat‘s gory extravaganza. So to these gamers of a certain age, I proudly present Berzerk Studio’s Infernax.

Rad to the max

Berzerk Studio had a noble goal in mind: to invoke our awesomest memories from the late ’80s and early ’90s. They created the story of Alcedor, a crusader returning home to find the armies of the dead having taken over. He brandishes his trusty mace and gets right to whacking.

PAX East 2020 Infernax preview Berzerk Studio

The biggest inspiration is the aforementioned Zelda II, with a side-scrolling adventure very much in that game’s style. There are also nods to the game hidden throughout the world, and if you know Link’s sophomore outing like the back of your hand, then you’ll find so much stuff in Infernax. It also wears its Castlevania II on its sleeve, with a day/night cycle, interconnected world, and certain storytelling beats. Throw in a few modern amenities like a minimap and you’ve got yourself a wild ride guaranteed to satisfy retro fans.

Don’t call it a Metroidvania, though. According to the team, the games that inspire Infernax predate the term, the style of game, and even Mr. Igarashi’s own definition of Igavania style. You may be tempted to define it as such, but let’s show some restraint. Otherwise, Alcedor may not.

PAX East 2020 Infernax preview Berzerk Studio

Infernax also features a robust magic system that changes depending on how you go through the game. Your choices matter, and sparing that poor damned soul up there will net you different abilities than slaying him. The game itself is fair hard and not “Nintendo hard,” meaning it doesn’t pad length by making levels ridiculously difficult, forcing players to rely on twitch reflexes or extensive memorization of trap and enemy placement. In that same vein, choosing to play on easy or hard mode has no effect on game content seen, as the devs want their stuff to be as accessible as possible.

That being said, the game has a particularly amusing collectable: Every enemy and trap can kill Alcedor in a uniquely splatter-filled way, and Infernax keeps track of them. There are no lives, so you can feel free to get slain to your shriveled husk of a heart’s content. Also, there’s an in-game cheat device, which is pretty neat. I got to see what happens when you input a certain code, and while I can’t talk about the specifics just yet, it did not disappoint.

PAX East 2020 Infernax preview Berzerk Studio

Behind the scenes

Sometimes you come across a team that really gets the game they’re making and do everything they can to make sure that people know it. For example, I saw many extravagant booths at PAX this year, the most extreme example being Nintendo’s Animal Crossing village. Berzerk Studio took a different approach. When I arrived at their booth, it consisted of an old sofa, a comfy rocking chair, and a beat-up credenza, with VHS tapes stacked up in front of the TV. A metal-looking guy with long hair and butt-kicking boots (this would be Hunter Bond, whose official title at Berzerk is Marketing Dude) offered me a SunnyD. It truly felt like I was hanging out with a friend’s older brother in the basement of their childhood home. Everything was perfect for playing an old-school, hard-as-nails Nintendo game.

Berzerk Studio has been working on this game for a few years now, and it’s almost ready to be unleashed upon the world (though we may not be ready for it). With another coat of polish, we’re looking at a 2020 release on Nintendo Switch. Infernax is gruesome, gory, and violent in ways that you could only have dreamed of in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s also a ton of fun and just the right amount of difficult to keep gamers of a certain age (or, heck, anyone) coming back for more.

Dominick Ashtear