There’s one key section in late INFRA that attracts a lot of praise. It’s another puzzle-strewn location that Mark gets stuck in and, yet again, has to go to silly lengths to escape.
But this is a very different INFRA to the one you have known. It’s not about crumbling infrastructure but an excursion to surreal country.
Welcome to Turnip Hill.
INFRA spans a single day. A serious problem afflicting the endgame is that, at night, nothing looks good. The world is poisoned with darkness, starving the player of glorious sights. This is why, as I mentioned in the previous post, INFRA dishes out a crucial flashlight upgrade, otherwise you’d be guzzling flashlight batteries.
The only way to reclaim any of that familiar graphical glory is to find a place enriched with light. Wandering an evacuated Stalburg at dusk has its moments but much of it is too dark to love. After you leave Stalburg, night usurps the sky and that hair-trigger urge to screenshot ebbs away.
It is a welcome relief to reach the brightly-lit lobby of Turnip Hill which, at first glance, appears to be an ordinary block of flats. But Turnip Hill is anything but ordinary. It is part of the Obenseuer district (“Open Sewer”) that is referenced many times throughout INFRA, a dumping ground for Stalburg’s poor. It’s practically a shanty town boasting its own rules and economy. In design terms, this means INFRA’s real world sensibilities are thrown into an open sewer wearing concrete boots.
Of course, you don’t see many people in Turnip Hill – one rough sleeper and another person soon to die – but you do talk to several through closed doors. There are conversational fragments; All of the people are suffering from mental illness of a sort which can be put down to alcohol and mushroom abuse. In terms of vibe, I was reminded more of Neil Manke’s Half-Life mod trilogy They Hunger. I haven’t played They Hunger since release, so take this comparison with a punchbowl of salt.
Over its duration, INFRA gestures towards the inequity of Stalburg’s rich/poor divide and you might expect Turnip Hill is where this point is driven home. Forcing people into such a twilight existence is tacitly appropriated as a feature rather than a bug in all first-world economies. But INFRA was never really about political messages or truths about the city-state; it utilises the Obenseuer concept as an opportunity to do crazy stuff. Don’t strain too hard looking for messages about injustice or even how Turnip Hill is meant to operate. It has a pharmacy, a book store, a drawbridge and… a bottle recycling machine.
This machine is the simplest way to obtain coins in Turnip Hill. There’s no concept of an inventory when it comes to bottles so Mark has to carry each one individually to the recycling machine. And boy, you need those coins as the Turnip Hill lift is hungry for currency. Mark cannot escape Turnip Hill without coins.
Don’t forget that Mark’s rushing to a nuclear reactor at the point of meltdown! To gain egress, Mark must reach the funeral home and perform one last task: dispose of “biowaste”.
Some INFRA players may not know that Turnip Hill’s biggest secret is the underground city. I never visited and the first I heard about it was through research for these posts. However, access requires you to have done something hours earlier in INFRA. It even offers an alternative, much darker ending to INFRA, complete with credit roll.
Turnip Hill is just the weirdest location. Here’s the thing. If Turnip Hill was some small self-contained project uploaded to itch, I’d probably give it a whirl and maybe even chuckle at it. But it’s strapped to INFRA like a bomb belt and, even worse, Turnip Hill turns up during the wearying endgame. It weighs down exploration with coin grinding and silliness and we find our walking simulator has gone AWOL.
But perhaps I’m an outlier. Turnip Hill’s surreal blend has attracted much love from INFRA players. Its success seems to have encouraged Loiste Interactive to develop an RPG based entirely in Open Sewer in 2018. It remains in early access and updates are infrequent (the last information on Steam was in March).
I hear it has a lot of mushrooms.
Next: A Game I Needed To End