It’s one thing to be inspired by a game, but it’s another thing entirely to successfully recreate and even, in some ways, improve upon the formula of the original. Infested is a point-and-click adventure game heavily inspired by Uninvited and other famous ICOM Simulations games and it perfectly captures the sense of mystery, adventure, and, of course, danger which made those old games so great while also taking advantage of some more modern design philosophy to cut down on the elements which could make those games so very, very frustrating.
If you have ever played an ICOM Simulations game in the past then you already likely have a good idea of how Infested works and if you haven’t then it’s still simple enough to understand. The entire game takes place from a first-person perspective and you can’t freely look around, but you can make use of the Move button to change your location. A basic map is also present in the bottom-left corner with green squares representing the general parts of the screen you can click on to move, which is helpful for when you are in a multi-screen room or when an entrance is small or far away. Other than movement, you also have the EXAM. (examine), USE, TAKE, and OPEN buttons. OPEN is used for opening doors or certain objects and TAKE allows you to take objects from the environment or out of containers and put them into your inventory, simple enough. Likewise, the USE button allows you to select an item from your inventory to use on another inventory item, on something in the environment, or on yourself by pressing the SELF button and the button for examining will give you information on anything you click on in the environment or in your inventory. Learning to examine everything, both in the environment and in your inventory, is important for obtaining hints and other forms of valuable information (plus some flavor text and some characterization for the protagonist); there definitely isn’t any pixel hunting required here, but objects you can interact with aren’t labelled and even the most seemingly mundane parts of the environment can reveal vital information so you definitely need to learn not to take anything for granted. There aren’t any NPC’s around to converse with so, if it wasn’t clear already, this is about as simple as a point-and-click adventure game can get, but it’s effective.
Death is certainly a major factor in this game. Whether it’s from trying to touch a piece of mysterious green slime on the ground in the second screen of the game or from trying to climb down a ladder in the dark, you are virtually guaranteed to die, and fairly often at that. Thankfully, two factors prevent the onset of any sort of frustration at these failures. First, in addition to allowing you to save at any point, Infested has excellent checkpointing and will always allow you to continue from the screen before the one in which you died with all of your progress intact, making death a matter of losing a handful of seconds and never minutes. You also don’t need to worry about this generous checkpointing trapping you in an unwinnable state like in many of the older types of adventure games it mimics; you are never blocked off from backtracking to previous areas and there is no danger of losing or permanently missing an item. The second factor which prevents these frequent deaths from causing annoyance is the simple fact that dying can be just as much fun as succeeding. While only a few of the deaths have unique graphical depictions, generally when the death is caused by some sort of creature, each cause of death has a unique and often amusingly detailed description. Attempting to discover every possible death is an entertaining challenge in and of itself and I spent a not insignificant portion of my time with this game deliberately making blatantly bad choices just to see what would happen.
So just where does this game sit on the difficulty scale? Even though this game takes its inspiration from some of the most notoriously unforgiving adventure games out there, I’d say that it’s firmly positioned in the easier half of the spectrum. Let me state this as clearly as I possibly can: Infested being one of the easier adventure games out there is a very large point in its favor. Yes, you’ll likely die plenty of times and some of the smaller objects in the environment can be easy to overlook, but the game never asks its players to click on slightly discolored wall tiles or to spot a slightly lifted corner of a rug or any of the many other horrible incarnations of pixel hunting which so often plague this genre. When you occasionally need to combine items in your inventory with each other the combinations always make logical sense and item descriptions are always detailed and clear enough that you can get a good sense of what each object actually is and how you can probably use it. This is not to say that Infested holds your hand, it absolutely does not, but it deftly avoids the most common pitfalls of the genre to make its roughly one hour length an enjoyable challenge rather than an exercise in frustration.
On top of everything else which it does right, Infested nails its presentation. The artwork and UI layout definitely evoke memories of adventure games from the 80’s and early 90’s without shying away from a little modern innovation; the color palette feels a bit more varied and the artwork a bit more crisp than something like Uninvited or Shadowgate and the number of ways in which you can interact with the environment is within the realm of sanity. The soundtrack, while consisting of only seven songs in its entirety, is consistently fantastic and the songs go a long way towards setting the tone while being fun to listen to on their own. Lastly, the setting isn’t anything surprising or innovative, the protagonist is largely a blank slate and trapped on a ship in a space mission gone wrong, but the descriptions of environmental objects combine with a few internal musings from the protagonist to create an interesting enough mystery out of not only what went wrong, but also of what mission the protagonist and the other members of the crew were tasked with in the first place.
Though it is short, Infested has been one of the best adventure games I’ve played in years. Unless you absolutely must have NPC interactions or a more modern aesthetic in your adventure games, Infested offers up just about everything fans of the genre could possibly want without any of the genre’s common shortcomings.