Infect ED

Welcome to the world known as "The Body"! The world has been infected with an evil virus and it's your job to cure it. Venture forth with your weapons of medicine (grenades, needles etc.) to find the core of the virus, curing everything in your way! Go nuts on your own, or with friends. Two to four players co-op.

Pawn Interactive's Infect ED is a terrific looking multi-player game in which up to four local players must attack bacterial infections large and small. The game takes an odd approach in dividing each level into two general stages: the field below is the starting point and the top half is the boss macrophage's domain, reeking havoc upon the body like some biological Donkey Kong. Players choose one of four cures resembling dressed up white blood cells to ward off the infection by attacking the numerous infected bacteria raining upon the body. Players are given minor quests to complete and a quota of infected bacteria they must repell in the lower half of a level before being transported to the top half to properly finish off the boss. It's hardly revolutionary stuff, but the design helps Infect ED avoid too much of a "same old" feeling, and the excellent graphics and good control give a mostly favorable impression.

The graphics present a polygonal 3-D world on a 2-D plane, a style perfected in games such as Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and other "2.5-D" platformers. The environments have a simplified organic look with bulbous platforms and dozens of background cells, a style which looks nice but appears to just vary the color from stage to stage with little deviation judging from the demo and screenshots. Four types of bacteria attack the player(s) each with slight changes in their look but in the end are just four differently colored blobs exhibiting similar look and attack styles albeit with some minor differences in their attacks' effects. The virus boss is an impressive looking beast, wildly animated and expressive with its large eyes and flailing tentacles, getting larger and more powerful with each iteration . The player characters have their own unique look akin to some cell special defense force team, a style that looks nice on a full screen and stays identifiable even when zoomed out. Though Infect ED may have some issues with visual variety, there's no questioning how wonderful it all looks on screen.

Where Infect ED suffers a bit is in its gameplay. Medikit collection quests, slaughtering hundreds and thousands of bacteria, and destroying a boss indirectly just isn't all that fun. Odder still is how the game squashes player expectations that this would be a shooter somewhat similar to Square Off. Instead, only one of the four characters (Radiation) has a ranged attack while the remaining three (Physical, Electricity, and Poison) are regulated to melee tactics. Melee combat is dull and uninteresting, pointing in a direction on the right analog stick and watching the character mindlessly swat the air, damaging any infected bacteria the strike connects. Player specific special abilities help somewhat in allowing the characters to double in size, zip around the screen doing damage, and so forth, but there's rarely need for such moves given how effect the basic, boring attacks are against the waves of bacteria. I can commend the gameplay for being original, but it is hard to give brownie points for innovation when it feels so distant and banal. Watching the bacteria float up, damage the boss, and then respawn from the boss stronger is a tiresome cycle when none of the forms pose a threat to engage the player in the action.

For its part, Infect ED does control well, and though no option is provided to remap the controller, none is needed. Players should find thrashing about and double jumping through the level second nature, and the starting quests do a nice job of filling in other details and acting as a sort of tutorial. Beyond arguments over who gets the lone guncell in the game, I can definitely see Infect ED offering some fun with its local multi-player gameplay as the game is clearly designed around a team framework with role players such as the turret builder and the healer. From the presentation to the control, it's clear to me that much effort went into creating Infect ED, but the demo takes all these pretty graphics and concepts and fails to achieve anything with them, a tired if competent action-platformer which struggles to draw the player into its world. Perhaps later challenges build on this structure, and the game may be fun with others as most multi-player games are, but after four trial playthroughs seeking to find some merit and fun in its design, I could only walk away.

★★★☆☆
November 2, 2010
October 22, 2010 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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