Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Infineural
Having a day job sucks. What if you could get it over with all at once? Infineural is a company that is looking for new hires. Using time-warp technology, employees may complete 50 years’ worth of work in no more than five minutes. The best part? They don’t even remember what happens at the job!* Drink a nice coffee, clock in, wake up a few minutes later and collect a nice big paycheck. In this economy, it’s a steal.
Every so often you’ll hear about a person who was anesthetized for surgery and did not quite fall asleep. Awake enough to tell what is happening during the procedure, but not enough to say hey cut that shit out please. Infineural is a bit like that. As the game’s description states, this isn’t a horror game with any kinds of jumpscares. Rather, it’s more a backdoor look into a nightmare scenario.
You, the player, get to see just what happens in the 50-year shift in a cubicle within Infineural’s world of stopped time, and frankly, just a glimpse into it is more unsettling than many horror themes could ever achieve. More terrifying than Freddy Kruger chasing you with his icky face and scary fingernails is being forced to complete seemingly endless amounts of stupid captcha-level questions. Trapped in the time cube for half a century answering questions on an IBM PC from the 80s is more or less what I imagine a modern-day Sheol would be like.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
Infineural is a first-person game where you pretty much walk into an office, answer some questions, and walk out again. There is both fortunately and unfortunately not a whole of of game to recap. Developer Mike Klubnika has done us the tremendous favor of only forcing us to experience answering .0000007% of the required questions before we the player are allowed to return to the normal timestream.
What makes Infineural so unsettling to me is just getting in the mindset of the protagonist. Anyone can be frightened by a goblin or ghoul, but a monster that would simply kill you is nowhere near as frightening as 50 years of forced labor office work purgatory with seemingly no way to take a bathroom break. As alluded to earlier, there are two endings; one where your character does remember the whole ordeal, and one where they do not. And while both come in the form of a brief conversation with a ‘coworker’ after your shift, they are still very effective in this thought experiment in video game form.
The game is about 7 minutes long, doubled if you want both endings. Infineural leaves a bit to be desired after completion. While I appreciate a title that answers just enough to leave you with a mystery, it could be interesting to see what is going on in this world. What is this utterly banal data mining work achieving? Are other occupations using this time warp technology? Why is a time-bending corporation giving you cheap vending machine coffee in their run-down reception area? These are questions that don’t necessarily need an answer, but hey, it would be interesting to know.
How To Fix It:
I think it would do the game well to expand upon the office. As it stands, Infineural corporation has a tiny entrance room before you step into a lift and go through Half-Life 2’s Citadel and placed in the underworld of cubicles. Some more characters to speak too, would be neat. I’d love to see what the office clerks have to say about operating a Star Trek warp core for the purpose of data entry. Maybe we can see more of this world in Infineural 2: Sons of Liberty.
I think the ultimate question I’m left with after Infineural is, would I take this gamble? I’ve had a handful of surgeries with no problems, would I take a 50-year paycheck at the risk of having to experience a 50-year-long shift at once? Infineural seems a timely game in an era of dead-end low-paying jobs. At least this Sisyphean task lets you get it done before old age.
You can download Infineural for free on itch.io by clicking here.