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Mini-Review: Infernax Deux or Die

8 Apr 2023

It’s not all that often that I get the opportunity to revisit a beloved review title after it’s release, but when The Arcade Crew reached out for word on the latest major update for Infernax, of course I had to check it out for myself.

So, for those of you who haven’t heard of Infernax already, you can check out our review from last year. But the short version is that it’s a gory fantasy action game done in the style of classic NES titles such as Zelda II or Castlevania II. At launch it had several secret alternate characters, with how to unlock them unveiled after beating the game, but a new update has added another character right from the start as well as a new way of playing.

Cervul the squire is there to be your player two with the new couch co-op update, Deux or Die, which released on April 5th, 2023. Far from being a mere carbon copy of Alcedor, Cervul is all about supporting his master’s abilities with ranged attacks and buffs. He’s only usable in two-player mode, but you can experience it in a tag mode that allows a solo player to swap freely between them, with your uncontrolled character following invincibly behind you.

I gave it a shot on a fresh file in tag mode seeing how things would go playing as Cervul almost exclusively. One immediate thing I noticed is that the game is far easier, continuing a long standing tradition of sidekicks outshining the heroes. Sure, an attempt was made to increase difficulty by increasing the number of enemies, but the squire’s basic attack is to chuck an endless supply of axes like some vampire slaying hammer bro. Just having an infinite ranged option helps deal with a LOT of enemy placements that were made to frustrate players that only had a short range attack in front of them. The increased number of enemies also doesn’t exactly make things harder when this ALSO means you gain experience and gold far faster.

Another change is that losing a life in two-player mode doesn’t reset the room, instead respawning you near where you died. Along with this, even when you’re out of lives you still get one more chance since you won’t game over until you die with BOTH characters, essentially giving you a free life.

Now, that all said, it’s not quite a free ride yet. Cervul’s quite ineffective at attacking things close and in front of him, and most of his tools are more suited for proper two-player play and are far less useful in tag mode. Speaking of playing with another player, while that does allow you to dish out the pain twice as much, you’re also both vulnerable. Without proper teamwork you’ll simply find yourself dying twice as much too.

At the end of the day however, the main draw of this update is simply the ability to play with another person. Infernax is a deliberate throwback to that 8-bit era where getting together with some friends to play in the same room was an expected feature of most games. The classic pitfalls are there as well. With a shared life pool and shared screen that takes both players to scroll, you’re in this three-legged race together. Whether this means working together to blitz through way cleaner than you could alone, or deliberately griefing your partner, this is part of the retro gaming experience that was missing before.

Infernax was already one of my favorite games of last year, and this week’s update was the perfect reason to hop back in again. The new options allow for a more tactical approach to encounters, and playing with someone else adds a whole new level of unpredictability. It’s a little bit of extra polish, and best of all it’s completely free and optional. One-player mode is still there if this doesn’t sound appealing, but if you’ve already enjoyed the single player game I encourage you to give it a shot.

Preview copy provided by The Arcade Crew for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of The Arcade Crew.