The Entropy Centre (Xbox Series) Review

If I Could Turn Back Time
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The Entropy Centre – Stubby Games/Playstack – is another first-person, puzzle-chamber game but, before you shrug your shoulders, it does more to differentiate itself than many of its peers – even if that means cribbing from the best. You’ve got the expected succession of increasingly tough puzzles, with a strong focus on careful planning and initial setup, but these are coupled with an unexpectedly engaging narrative, great voice work, and even a few action-heavy set pieces to spice things up.

The Entropy Centre AI
They always start out so cute.

You can’t fight entropy

Now there’s a lot of iffy pseudoscience underpinning The Entropy Centre’s plot. The titular lunar facility is designed to rewind the state of Earth after catastrophes – everything from meteorite impacts to climate disasters – and then inform governments of these future threats to shift it onto a new timeline. “Entropy energy” to power this process is generated by volunteers, solving puzzles using smaller handheld entropy devices, who are themselves rewound after completing puzzles as the energy is only generated by the thinking process.

It’s weird, underexplained, and full of logical gaps – but still a good analogy for the consequence of governments and individuals pushing blindly forward with minimal thought. The overarching story also doesn’t matter that much as it’s far less interesting than the evolving relationship between the protagonist and her “personal entropy assistant” AI, or the individual stories of staff and puzzle volunteers – which you can read on old PC terminals – as they grapple with repeatedly witnessing catastrophes and effectively rewinding their timelines out of existence.

Earth circa. 2035

The player takes control after a confused Aria awakens in the overgrown ruins of the Entropy Centre. She’s forgotten almost everything about her time in the facility, and soon discovers it’s barely holding together, she might be the only human left, and her only companions are helpful AI assistants and robots that seem suspiciously sentient. It doesn’t take long to discover Earth is in serious trouble and Aria will find herself tackling roadblock after roadblock to get the facility back online – hopefully saving humanity and herself in the process.

For Portal fans, it won’t take long to spot more than a few similarities – just sans the portals. A ruined facility full of puzzle chambers and cubes; a solitary human tackling these puzzles monitored by seemingly benevolent AI; a focus on humourous interactions with an AI that doesn’t understand human subtleties and adaptability. Hell, even the AI announcements you hear as you explore are a near-perfect match for the Black Mesa Announcement System from Half-life. It’s good, full of easter eggs, and legitimately funny at times, but it’s also more lighthearted without the constant underhanded threats. Now that said, if you keep an eye out for active terminals and slideshows – usually tucked away in offices that require an additional puzzle step to reach – you’ll begin to understand the strain and tragedy the staff and volunteers experienced.

The Entropy Centre Secrets
Does no one lock their terminals?

Fail to plan, plan to fail

The gameplay loop in The Entropy Centre will be familiar to anyone who enjoys this genre but there is a much stronger focus on planning and the initial setup. After a brisk introduction gets you used to some basic platforming, hauling around cubes, and triggering switches, you’ll acquire the handheld entropy device that can record the position of an object for up to 40-seconds and restore parts of the environment to its pristine state.

The first ability is by far the most important, as the bulk of puzzles involve setting up a sequence of moves for each cube – which may be a weight, springboard, projected bridge, or even laser beam emitter – and then rewinding them to their original position to overcome several obstacles. Things start simple enough, but each level of the facility – ten in total – introduces a new complexity or cube type. As an example, passing through “Time Gates” deletes any stored movement data; springboards can only launch you the same height you dropped from; while flowing water can deliver a cube to another location bypassing obstacles.

The Entropy Centre Puzzles
Thankfully, cubes move through both space and time.

More often than not, a level introduces you to a new cube type or hazard, before escalating in complexity towards a level finale that incorporates numerous cube types to juggle or multiple hazards to circumvent. Completing these requires you to study the environment, assess each cube’s ability, work out the sequence of switches you need to hit, and ensure you can physically move each cube along the required path – something that requires you to consider the positioning and track of multiple cubes simultaneously. Solving a particularly tough puzzle or completing a level will usually trigger some amusing dialogue, and there are leaderboards to track how long you’ve taken on some of the more elaborate puzzles.

Thankfully, The Entropy Centre is not just about milling around in puzzle chambers. You’ll explore parts of the facility while listening to dialogue; solve platforming puzzles by rewinding old debris; tackle block puzzles while engaged in rudimentary combat against deranged robot helpers; and flee from hazards while desperately rewinding structures collapsing around you. It ensures the action feels more dynamic and it was rare I got stuck for too long on one task. The only downside is that dying in The Entropy Centre – such as by not accounting for the path of your laser beam-emitting cube – sends you back to the start of the puzzle chamber with the puzzle elements reset.

The Entropy Centre Rewind
Freeze!

If I Could Turn Back Time

Overall, I enjoyed The Entropy Centre, even if takes a few too many inspirations from Valve’s iconic Portal and its sequel. Initially, I was going to hold that against it – along with its somewhat repetitive environments and understated soundtrack – but it’s not as though Valve seems to care for their IP and I’m grateful someone is still holding it up as an example of great game design that deserves to be emulated.

That said, The Entropy Centre is more than just a Portal clone, and the level of planning and preparation required for some of the later puzzles – especially those that give you a solitary box, a ton of switches, and numerous hazards to avoid – felt like nothing else in the genre. The icing on the cake is the excellent and humorous writing, conveyed by quality voice actors for Aria and ASTRID. Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the genre, up for a half-dozen hours of tough puzzling and unexpectedly good storytelling, and you don’t mind the clean but dated visuals, The Entropy Centre is worth the asking price.

A review code for The Entropy Centre was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

The Entropy Centre (Xbox Series) Review

The Entropy Centre (Xbox Series) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
  • Visuals
    6/10 Normal
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good

The Good

  • Unexpectedly strong narrative elements
  • Entertaining writing and voice work
  • Puzzles with a focus on planning and setup
  • Steady escalation of difficulty
  • A few exciting set pieces mixed in

The Bad

  • Repeatedly dying, backtracking, or resetting puzzles in larger chambers can get tedious
  • Dated visuals and limited environmental diversity
Total
22
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