Berzerk Studios

It’s crazy to think that Infernax was in development for eleven years. Actually, scratch that. It’s not all that crazy when you really think about just how ambitious and beefy Berzerk Studios’ 2D action-adventure really is. Not only is it loaded with secrets to discover and optional stuff to do, but there are multiple endings, different playable characters, and even some fun little surprises (like the inclusion of the Konami Code).

After Berzerk Studios delivered one hell of a retro-inspired action game, Ihad to catch up with them and get some insight into the game’s development. I talked to Mike Ducarme and Hunter Bond of Berzerk regarding their influences, struggles, and successes that all led up to the creation of Infernax.

If I were to describe Infernax using things I think are rad, I’d say it’s like a cross between Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Army of Darkness, with a tiny bit of Souls-y goodness added for good measure. In terms of gameplay, what were some of the team’s biggest influences?

Infernax Enemies - Skeletons

That would be a great way to describe it, yeah. Gameplay-wise we really were inspired by Zelda II, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and Faxanadu — well, at least the better aspects of each game!

There’s plenty of small influences, as well, and nods to various games we all grew up with — like the death scenes were created because one of our guys had “fond” memories of being scared shitless when monsters killed him in different manners in Forbidden Forest on the C64. We really wanted to evoke the feeling of playing these old school games, without being, “Haha, see? We took this exact mechanic and copy-pasted it in the game… RETRO!” So we took the essence of the games and made it our own.

Again, I get Evil Dead and Army of Darkness vibes from Infernax. Did these or any other movies or TV shows inspire some of the themes the game explores?

We really like the Army of Darkness comparison, but it would be more inspired by the OG Evil Dead where the humor wasn’t as slapstick-y and more incidental/accidental. We didn’t want to be in-your-face comedy-horror, but also, we couldn’t not laugh at the idea of an over-the-top animated cutscene of a poor sap getting his 47 teeth smashed out of his skull in the fourth screen of the game.

Army of Darkness - This Is My Boomstick - Ash Williams

Speaking of the thematic direction of Infernax, while it definitely gives a 2D fantasy action-adventure vibe, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s also kind of a horror game — or at least horror-adjacent. Was this intentional? Did Berzerk Studio set out to create something that was more in line with the horror genre, or that in some ways blurred the line between horror and fantasy?

Yeah, it’s something in between. We explored various directions in the eleven years it took to make the game, and at first there wasn’t even really a story other than the intro crawl. The way we see it is that we made a fantasy game and used horror elements to evoke the feeling that “there’s some serious fuckery about in this world.”

It kind of ties in with the concept that we had initially to make a game that looked like “‘80s lost media,” a game too gory for its time. Like, as if the horrific disturbing monsters snuck their way in the game.

Infernax is a super ambitious game. One playthrough of it will prove that, but you’ve added so much cool content that it takes more than just one run through the game to really see and experience everything. Was there anything the team had to leave out of the game because it maybe wouldn’t fit the final product?

Yeah we had to cancel the VR metaverse version, which was a huge bummer…

In all seriousness, there was a lot we wanted to do, and there’s still things that were left on the cutting block due to time restraints that I can’t really get into since they might be in future updates.

What was the most daunting part of development?

Infernax Vs. Boss Screen

Making a game over the course of eleven years, three generations of consoles, three engine changes, and half-a-dozen scope sizings up. There’s so many things that happened in those eleven years — things that seemed like the end of the world seven years ago feel trivial and petty today. I read somewhere that you are basically a whole different human every seven to ten years, so basically someone else started the project that we finished.

Eleven years is way too long to work on a game — I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

On the flipside, what was the most enjoyable part of developing Infernax?

Making the game that we wanted to make with no/very little concession. We set out on this quest almost a decade ago to make a retro pixel game that’s way too gory with the explicit knowledge that it wouldn’t be for everyone, so we leaned into it and made it the best it could be for those that were looking for that kind of game.

I think we succeeded, but that’s not really my place to say — that’s the player’s.

How did developing your previous titles help set the foundations for creating Infernax?

Infernax Pixelated Blood and Gore

The funny thing about Infernax is that the building blocks for it — the foundations of the game itself — were set in place before we even made over half our games. We learned a lot of stuff over the years, especially when it came to the technical side — switching from Flash to Unity3D, learning about developing for consoles, learning modern best practices. But on the gameplay side, like 80 percent of it was already there. We just sprinkled a whole lot more blood and half-naked demons on top of it.

What’s next for Berzerk Studio?

Wish I could tell you! For the first time in a long time, we don’t have two, three, four projects going on at the same time, so we’ll gladly take the time it takes to sit back and figure out what the future has in store for us.

A huge thank you to Mike and Hunter of Berzerk Studios for taking the time to answer all of our questions about Infernax. It’ll be exciting seeing what the team comes up with next. Whether it’s revisiting Infernax or working on a brand-new project altogether, you can rest assured we’ll keep a lookout for it!

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