kritiqal is the pet project of nate Kiernan. Based out of Maryville, TN, Kritiqal seeks to explore games at the intersection of academia and mass-market entertainment.

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Thoughts between flights in Subdivision Infinity DX

Prepping the ship

When I was eight I had a toy space gun, the head of which was a spaceship while the base was modeled after a flight stick. For context, the Star Wars prequels were in full force and the mass-merchandising of insignificant Lucas artifacts had reached even my secluded childhood home.

Maybe it was the pleasant earth tones of the ship’s color scheme, or the novelty of a toy gun that was also a flight stick, but even as only a moderate Star Wars fan the ship quickly rocketed itself to the top of my divisive toy hierarchy. The twist with this ship was that it had two modes: the first was a classic blaster; pull trigger, hear laser. The second, though, incorporated motion sensors and a collection of LEDs to simulate a space battle. To this day I think this toy was a remarkable bridge between imagination and video games, long before augmented reality was a talking point outside of Hollywood films.

The problem was the ship barely worked. The sensors rarely registered motion correctly, and the crude sound effects and lights made it difficult to actually know what you needed to do not to get blown up by your enemies. Pretty soon I switched over exclusively to “Play” mode and when the batteries died soon after, I didn’t bother trying to change them.

This is roughly my trajectory playing Subdivision Infinity DX, the PC port (hence the “DX”) of Blowfish Studios’ arcade space shooter: initial excitement giving way to disappointment and eventual indifference.

Screenshot courtesy of Blowfish Studios

Screenshot courtesy of Blowfish Studios

Liftoff

First impressions in Subdivision are encouraging. Space looks suitably vast and beautiful. The soundtrack slaps. There’s a robot sidekick whose limited grasp of intonation gets him into some linguistic snafus.

Granted, my character - a space mercenary so unremarkable he might have fallen off the cover of a JN Chaney paperback - is less a person than he is a collection of poorly translated quips. And my fighter ship possesses the heft and strength of a sandwich thin substituting as actual bread. But I am forgiving of any game that let’s me zip around asteroids and circumnavigate the industrial bowels of a starship. I’m gonna see this one through.

Screenshot courtesy of Blowfish Studios

Screenshot courtesy of Blowfish Studios

Through the warp gate

My early generosity has been worn away by Subdivision’s relentlessly bland mission design. I am torn between my dislike of each mission’s flavorless grind and the small respite brought on by each taking less than 10-minutes to complete. It’s the video game campaign equivalent to a dinner of plain rice cakes: all fluff, no substance, but at least the exercise is over as quick as it began.

It is difficult, though, the really qualify that as anything approaching praise. There is no reason you have to play Subdivision, so telling you it’s mercifully short is mostly for my own need to pull something fulfilling out of the experience. Unlike an existence sustained by rice cakes which serves a biological (if hollow) purpose, Subdivision is only ever going to take time that could be spent doing any number of things.

As conclusion and for my own future reference I have catalogued several of these possibilities below:

  • Finding the name of that Star Wars gun

  • Rewatching Battlestar Galatica and imagining that the final episode was tragically lost to time

  • Writing JN Chaney an apology for needlessly dragging his book covers for this review


Subdivision Infinity DX was reviewed on PC using a code provided by the developer.

Prey can’t let go of the past