The Entropy Centre
A little over a month ago I looked at the demo for The Entropy Centre, already impressed that someone was developing a spiritual successor to one of my favorite FPS titles. Thanks to the developers and publishers, I was able to play the full version. At the time of this writing, I am two-thirds of the way finished so this leaves me with enough thoughts to write my honest opinion.
While the "S" in "FPS" is a bit of a stretch, the cultural phenomenon that Portal left was anything but. While the first game was straightforward with its puzzles, the aesthetically dark humor provided by head-robot overseer Glad0s gave the game a purpose. The sequel built upon that formula and added new mechanics as well as a deeper dive into the lore that the first game laid as groundwork.
My first impressions of The Entropy Centre centered (heh) around its inspirational cues from the Portal duology. It didn't sugarcoat its inspirations, rather, it laid it out to bare unapologetically. Astra, your trusty entropy device, is as talkative, cheerful, and as literal of an ally as the Cores were in Portal 2. Early on, you're introduced to an entropy companion bot with an "E" taped on its head. It behaves like a dog, loyal to Aria, and at some point, you can even pet it by pressing..."E"...
But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Compared to the demo build, the opening sequence in The Entropy Centre plays a little bit differently. There are more scenes between Aria and Astra, the cataclysmal event that is the Earth exploding is highlighted, and there are more puzzles. In between puzzles, there's an event that may take place, such as taking a lift while avoiding the crumbling entropy centre. The premise is still the same, Aria awakes to find she's the alleged last human employee from the Entropy Centre and she is tasked to prevent the Earth from blowing up.
That is if the building doesn't outright kill her first. As mentioned, one of the additions in the early stages of the game is an "auto-scroller" where you board a lift and rewind several structures from crushing you under. It then turns into a race against the clock as the water below you slowly rises while you ascend a silo. All the while, more structures are crushing you with some barring your paths. It's here that the player will figure out that if you stand on rubble and use Astra on the rubble, you can use the reconfiguration of the rubble as a "makeshift elevator."
Everything that is introduced in the first few acts serves as a way to condition the player on how to solve puzzles for the later half. There are several solutions to some puzzles, with the easiest solution not always being the most obvious. Due to the rewind mechanic, you have to think in reverse. If it seems impossible to move a cube to a certain area, consider how to get there, to begin with, then work from zero. Different types of cubes, ranging from a laser cube to a bridge cube that summons a solid light path, are introduced steadily.
Aside from cubes, there are also other types of obstacles such as blocks you can deconstruct and rebuild, springboards, jump cubes for extra height, and rivers to move objects along the currents. What I find hilarious is that while there aren't many ways to die, simply stepping in shallow water is enough to drown I guess. The case could be considered that Astra is heavy enough to sink, but, instantaneously drown from water reaching up to your knees? I get it, the Turtles couldn't even swim, so whatever.
As Aria and Astra scramble to save the Earth, there are not alone. The entire reasoning behind these puzzles involves "working enough brain energy" to power up the entropy device needed to reverse the destruction of Earth. Through various memos and lore found at locations in the game, the Earth was saved hundreds of times. Some real-life conspiracy events are also mentioned, such as 2012 and the "many asteroids that are targeting Earth every three months."
It's more of a dystopia than anything. Imagine seeing Earth explode as a possibility, rectifying it with wibbly wobbly timey whimey (I will never stop saying that) stuff, and then alerting Earth "Hey you're going to get destroyed by global warming but we can fix it!" Your future lies in the hands of those who are unable to determine when it's Christmas because of the constant rewinding of time. I can imagine the freakout when this time, Earth can not be saved.
Regardless, as mentioned, the duo is not alone as aside from "E", there are other cute entropy companion bots roaming around. Who also behave like dogs, if the dogs were killer security dogs that fire homing lasers at you. During the halfway point, the threat of the entropy centre crashing and the failure to "save Earth" is putting a strain on the companion bots. So when they see an organic life form (you) roaming about, they won't hesitate to fire.
Fortunately, you can fire back the projectiles using the rewind function and explode your enemies in turn. However, the energy balls hone in at your location, meaning that you're going to take a direct hit unless you find cover. The projectiles do enough damage that they destroy parts of the environment, limiting the number of areas that provide you cover. Of course, you can rewind the damage done, and doing this is required for an achievement. The best way to get rid of these pesky bots is to pick them up and toss them at each other.
This effectively splits the game up accordingly. Each Act has a certain number of puzzles, labeled "Puzzle #0304" with the first two integers being the "act" and the last two being the numbered puzzle. Considering there are at least four puzzles in each act on average, there are well over 50 puzzles to solve. Some are more brain-tickling than others, with the early puzzles in an act introducing you to a new mechanic, and the final puzzle putting it all together.
In between puzzles are escape sequences, whether it's rising water, fatal unkillable robots that can kill you immediately, or a combination of both. Occasionally, going off the beaten path will reward the player with lore about the entropy centre as well as earn one of 75 collectibles. The Entropy Centre is a fun game, with enough dark humor, robots, things trying to kill you, and hair-pulling puzzles to fill the Portal void. At times, I feel the game attempts to be like its inspiration a fair bit too much.
At one point there's a section where you're attempting to solve a puzzle but something seems off. Suddenly a bait-and-switch occurs which leads to the chase sequence. It has been many years since I've played Portal 2 but I believe this was also a thing that happened around the same part of the game. During the moments when The Entropy Centre feels like its own game, it's an amazing experience. Several puzzles made me go "Ohhh that's how it's done!" when something clicks.
A talking protagonist is a unique protagonist considering Chell was a silent one in Portal. Giving the main character a personality is always a good thing to make the desolate halls a lot cozier. Yes, you're all alone with a loudspeaker, a somewhat sentient device, and clearly, sentient robots out to kill you, but it comes off as cheery and hopeful. Not at all like a survival horror with the fate of billions of people looming in stasis. Will the duo succeed? I'll find out for myself as I clear the final few acts.
But as of right now, I highly recommend The Entropy Centre for being more than just a Portal-like. It oozes personality and thought-provoking puzzles to keep a player hooked for hours. I wouldn't recommend a straight playthrough as it will take several hours depending on how fast you clear the acts. Eventually, it does become monotonous so pacing is a requirement to get full enjoyment. Also, don't hesitate to subscribe to the cat facts!
The Entropy Centre is available on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and Steam. Players can enjoy a launch discount on Steam and purchase here