The Entropy Centre is the first game from the seemingly unbelievably talented developers at Stubby Games, based out of the UK. I say that because this game is special. Through a mix of brilliant puzzles, gorgeous music, and an incredible story they have created an unmissable gaming experience. This review will be brief and spoiler-free because the less you know the better. So grab your best friend (who is a time-controlling gun) and get to work against impossible odds.
The Flow of Time
I hope anyone reading this has been able to avoid the spoiler-filled release trailer for the game. I had never heard of the title before I saw it pop up as a review opportunity just two days before the review embargo. I watched a quick gameplay trailer that gave nothing away and thought “neat, this looks cool. Like a time-based Portal”. The where, why, and how of what you are doing floored me as I came into the game completely blind. To give a tiny bit of a skeleton to this game’s bones I’ll describe it as “Something bad is happening and you have the ability to rewind time. You’ll be solving puzzles to build up entropic energy, which you will then use to reverse the bad situation that is currently unfolding.”
Puzzles themselves work in a multitude of ways with a surprisingly large number of acts each introducing new mechanics. Getting to each puzzle room can be a harrowing experience as you use your AI-powered gun Astra to rewind various objects through time. Most of said objects are cubes, much like in Portal, that you’ll position in various ways to help you clear each puzzle room. There are regular blocks, blocks that make you jump far in the air, bridge blocks that let you walk across previously thin air, and more. There is very little “combat” in the game as well, and when the more dangerous sections did crop up, I never found them difficult or in the way. They did their job of adding tension early on. Later in the title, it did feel like a bit much with how often you were facing the game’s versions of enemies. I really don’t want to say too much about the plot or how the puzzles work so let’s get into how the game made me feel, how it looks, and how it sounds.
The Entropy Centre hit me hard emotionally. This is due in large part to some solid writing, a great plot, and an incredible soundtrack. The only voiced characters in the game are you, your AI gun, and a system warning computer voice that lets you know what’s going on. There is a lot of dialogue and while it started out feeling rather cutesy and light by the end I was almost overwhelmed with how powerfully the game built to its conclusion. I’m not 100% sure but I’d estimate it took me roughly 10 hours to beat, and at the risk of sounding pompous, I was pretty darned good at figuring out solutions to the trickiest of puzzles rather quickly. I had to sprint for the embargo, but it’s not how I’d recommend playing. Take your time if you can and let your brain recharge when possible because this game is devilishly hard at first glance. Then you come back later, realize you were overthinking things, and get a tough puzzle in one try.
There is a great balance of tough puzzle rooms and the in-between. The game is broken up into acts, each having its own set of puzzle rooms. Getting to and leaving said puzzle rooms can take as long and be as hard as any puzzles themselves. In this remote, desolate, and decaying play space you’ll find a wide variety of locations that look pretty darned ok. The Entropy Centre isn’t a great-looking game, but the graphics get the job done well enough, and outside of some heavy volumetric fog areas bogging down, it runs at a solid feeling framerate throughout.
This is doubly impressive because of the destruction physics on display. Everything is breaking all the time, and you’re using your gun to reverse it in real-time. I found myself playing around and breaking, fixing, and re-breaking the same areas over and over again while I noticed how it broke differently every time depending on when I stopped or started my rewind ability. Some of the textures in the environment look oddly pixelated in comparison to others, and in the middle part of the game when you’re around a lot of water the haze effect washed everything out. It looked like the brightness slider had been turned up to 100 for a couple of acts.
The best part of the game though is the audio. The realistic-sounding creaks, groans, cracks, and thuds of the environment are matched with excellent effects on weaponry, robots, and accurate positional audio. The majority of the game’s dialogue is between your character and your AI gun, but most of the writing is found in text logs found on computer terminals throughout your journey. These are key to understanding what went wrong, and why you’re seemingly alone at the start of the game. It felt like I was reading a slow-burn mystery novel in corporate email form and it worked incredibly well.
Bug-wise I only ran into a few with most of them being me getting stuck in the environment, and the others being odd times when reversing time caused my character to clip into an item and instantly die. Other than that the game was rock solid performance wise and it’s entirely offline from what I can tell so there shouldn’t be any server issues at launch.
If you like puzzle games with brilliant stories, deviously clever puzzles, an incredible atmosphere, and an emotionally charged soundtrack buy this game. The Entropy Centre came out of nowhere and floored me with its brilliance; the less you know before you go in, the better of an experience it will be.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox, PlayStation, PC|
|Release Date||November 3rd, 2022|
|Rated||E for Everyone|