Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Turns out hell's not such a nice place. Who knew? You'll be experiencing it first-hand in Xpressed's The Inferno, which is very loosely based on Dante's "The Divine Comedy." You take on the role of Dante, who must journey to hell and back to try to save his murdered lover Beatrice. What ensues is 121 levels of grueling action-based puzzles where hell throws the kitchen sink at you to impede your progress. You'll have to out-maneuver all manners of fire balls, collapsing floors, bats, toxic clouds, etc., on your way. Impeccable timing and patience are required, and you'll need an abundance of both to succeed on your quest.
Your 121 level journey will take you through 5 differently themed circles of hell labeled Limbo, Plains of Gluttony, Fire Pits, Forest of Suicides, and Cocytus. Each level is completed by collecting all of the available soul orbs, which then activates the exit. There are a diabolical number of moving obstacles and traps that need to be navigated precisely, and the game sometimes gives you speed increase/decrease or shield power-ups to deal with these many dangers of hell.
The levels themselves get progressively longer and more difficult. Thankfully, there are checkpoints along the way that let you re-spawn from part-way through the level, and that also let you keep the souls you've collected up to that location. This is much needed because you will die A LOT in The Inferno. The game shows you a running tally of your deaths, and the number gets very large, very quick. Don't be surprised if your death count quickly runs into the triple digits. On top of that, you must complete the game within 4 hours in order to save Beatrice. A timer is shown on-screen that constantly ticks down the time, and the combination of dying repeatedly while the clock marches down really ratchets up the pressure. One nice touch is that the game constantly reminds you of your dire circumstances by taunting you during the in-between load screens. It's harsh, but usually pretty funny.
As the levels get longer in The Inferno, the game does start feeling overly repetitive, and each arduous stage requires more endurance to complete. You'll be required to move very quickly through a hell-storm of obstacles at times, and this is where the controls start to feel too stiff to oblige. The default control scheme has a virtual d-pad that actually places the left-right controls on one side of the screen, with the up-down controls on the other. This takes some getting used to, but there is the option to switch to a standard cross-shaped d-pad instead. Since the underlying game-field is essentially a grid of boxes, Dante's movements tend to stutter at a one box at time pace. This makes sense to a degree, but still feels somewhat sluggish and unresponsive at critical junctures. It’s one thing to die a lot, but another thing entirely to feel like it was sometimes due to the stilted controls letting you down. The overall feel and precision of movement just doesn't feel quite smooth enough. One tip to remember is that repeated tapping in a direction is faster than holding the button, just don't tap too many times...
The Inferno is a hellacious grind for sure, whose fun factor starts to slip as the levels get longer & more repetitive, and as you start to rack up an astronomical number of deaths. It will appeal to your sadistic streak, providing you have one. The presentation is nicely polished, and the game exudes a wry sense of humor that is both appropriate and appreciated. Patience is required if you want to reach the end goal, especially when the controls sometimes get in your way. The Inferno is a quality effort, just make sure you're up for the challenge before stepping foot past the devil's doorstep. The full game can be bought for $4.99, or you alternatively try the first 50 levels for $0.99, with the rest available via download.
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