I don’t do Game of the Year, but I can do the games I enjoyed the most this year. This is the third of four.

INFRA (Loiste Interactive, 2016) is a wacky, strange one. You are structural analyst Mark, sent out to review some crumbling infrastructure. Initially, it appears to be a loosely linear first-person adventure in which your primary goal is to take photos of structural issues with a few simple puzzles to inhibit progress. Despite not being an open world, INFRA has a subtle exploration quality to it which I found beguiling.

Perhaps I should’ve known when a corridor was “blocked” by some colleagues who were chatting in the office that maybe this was going to be a rough ride. Because INFRA repeatedly turns to obtuse puzzles that often have unreadable feedback. And the story, which initially sounded quite realistic, warps into the ridiculous. It also has an unappealling obsession with luminous green mushrooms.

I spent 33 hours in INFRA over a period of eight months. How did I keep going? Well, there were such sights in the game – I genuinely enjoyed the places that INFRA sent me to, while hating the hoops it made me jump through to reach them. The end was, admittedly, a struggle, because the whole game is set over a single day and INFRA‘s dark night offered little in the way of cool visuals. How realistic were INFRA‘s environments? I couldn’t tell you. Early on, I suspected the developers had done their homework. But towards the end, I had the feeling they were just very good at winging it.

Despite its janky design, INFRA is an incredible achievement – a huge and expansive explorer’s dream. And it became one of my son’s favourite games of all-time because of all the fascinating places we got to visit and explore at our leisure. Personally, I’d jot it down as one of my top love/hate games of all-time: if I’d played more Outer Wilds this year, I suspect it would’ve edged INFRA out of this list.

INFRA is available from Steam.

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