Infestation (Second Review)

Title		Infestation (Second Review)
Company		Psygnosis, 1990
Game Type	3D Action
Players		1
HD Installable  Yes, with WHDLoad Patch
Compatibility	OCS, ECS, All With WHDLoad Patch
Submission	Adrian Simpson Profiled Reviewer

Death is inevitable, but in Infestation its inevitability hits the player
swiftly and in many ways. The end comes from asphyxiation, starvation,
overheating, freezing, radiation poisoning, an attack by robots, tripping
on a wire, the base core reaching critical mass, a fall from a great
height, egg secretion contamination, being crushed by a closing door,
general head injuries, being poisoned by vicious moon marauders,
electrocution, cyanide gas poisoning, a collision with one's own drop ship
and a head explosion caused by rapid depressurisation.

When initially deposited on the surface of a planet the player is
unhelpfully thrown into the middle of an affray with bugs and killer
robots. Apart from affording little chance to get acquainted with the
controls it also gives the wrong impression about the rest of the game.
Rather than being an alien blast-'em-up Infestation is instead a
slow-paced game of exploration, puzzle solving and making the best use of
available resources. The surface is unlike the rest of the game, which is
set underground. Above ground you can move around freely and also fly but
there isn't a great deal to see. However, the stars, the changing colour
of the sky and the arcing moon do provide an atmospheric beginning.

It should be noted there is no oxygen on the planet's surface and that the
player is wearing a spacesuit with the ever-present sound of breathing.
The suit's helmet restricts the field of vision but can be removed to give
a wider, but short-lived and oxygen-free, surface view. Getting down below
is the first task and involves a quick trip to a terminal where a password
will activate the transporter. Shortly after this you should gain access
to the complex.

The infestation is now revealed. Foul alien eggs have been laid on each of
the floors and it's the player's task to destroy them all. They can only
be removed using cyanide gas. The consequence of this indirect method is
that the gas must be used sparingly and collected throughout the levels to
top up the supply. The major benefit is that one release of gas can wipe
out eggs en masse.

Inside the complex there's artificial atmosphere so the suit's helmet can
be removed freeing the player from the confined view. Watch out, though,
as some rooms have no oxygen and cyanide gas released into the air will
kill the player as readily as it destroys eggs! The suit offers additional
benefits including a range of useful HUD functions. One monitors vital
signs and another shows atmospheric conditions. There is even a window for
taking notes should the player lack a pen and piece of paper.

One of the first tasks is to take the central lift to one of the six
levels and enter the main control room. Getting into this room requires
completing a logical puzzle on a console. Once inside another console
disturbingly indicates that the core is rapidly overheating due to the
coolant system being turned off. To avoid a short game it's a good idea to
locate it and turn it back on again. It's not initially clear where this
can be done so some exploration is required to find out.

In addition to the puzzle and status consoles already mentioned the
control room screen splendidly displays a playable version of Asteroids.
Another follows the traditional manner of conveying the storyline by
relaying a crew log of events before the player's arrival. The most useful
console is the blueprint display which shows a map of the current floor.
Expect to be accessing this often for it not only shows your current
location within the labyrinth of corridors and snaking ventilation shafts
but also highlights remaining eggs with flashing symbols. A portable
blueprint would have been a welcome concession to the player but there is
admittedly a HUD navigation computer to be found which shows a more
detailed plan of the immediate area.

At this point in the proceedings the player will probably realise that
Infestation is a difficult game. The major problem arises in having to
juggle all the rapidly decreasing or increasing vital systems. Even the
aforementioned core temperature overheat will slow down and not stop when
the coolant system is switched on. A game like Infestation requires
exploration at the player's own pace instead of a race against time. The
point may come when the player is better off restarting than continuing
and dying.

Beyond the difficulty the isolated base and ventilation tunnels suggest 3D
PC games of a later generation (System Shock 1 or 2 for example) than that
of the Amiga. Of course, there are somewhat similar Amiga games including
the corridor based and letter C titled Corporation, Cybercon III and The
Colony or even the expansive Mercenary series. Still, Infestation is
relatively unique.

As is befitting a Psygnosis game there is a neat little intro of the
character flying over a planet which is followed by a Herman Serrano
picture of a robotic insect in an organic world. Apart from concept of an
insect infestation it doesn't really relate to the game but is still a
great image. The 3D graphics employed throughout most of Infestation stand
up well to other polygon games of the time and characters such as the
Guardians are menacing in their look. Check out the object viewer from the
main menu, which is something of a recurring feature of 3D games (e.g.
Voyager and Interphase).

Infestation, then, is quite a mixed bag of a game. It is set in a
fantastic world with a planetary surface displaying an array of stars and
an underground base with architectural variety in its bridges, rotating
rooms, corridors, shuttle bays, tunnels, lifts and computer rooms. If only
it gave the player a little more breathing space.

Category list.

Alphabetical list.