Beginning a review with a history lesson is usually a bit of a faux pas, but in this case it's integral to understanding what exactly Bright Memory: Infinite is. The original game--simply titled Bright Memory--gained some traction when it launched on Steam Early Access in 2019 for having flashy visuals that rivaled triple-A games in graphical fidelity, despite the fact that it was the work of a single developer. Zeng Xiancheng created Bright Memory in their spare time, and considering what a huge undertaking that is, it wasn't too surprising when the game clocked in at around 40 minutes in length. A sequel was due to follow, but these plans were scrapped when Xiancheng opted instead to remake the original game and expand on both its gameplay and story.
That's where Bright Memory: Infinite comes in, and it's a vastly different game from the 2019 original. Only tangential elements like character and organization names remain; the rest may as well be an entirely new project--which can only be a good thing. Gone are the Devil May Cry-esque style ratings and blatant allusions to Dark Souls. Instead, Bright Memory: Infinite feels less like a derivative fan game and more like something entirely its own; a frenetic FPS with satisfyingly punchy combat that mixes both gunplay and melee abilities into one audacious whole. It's still a fairly short experience with some glaring caveats, but the journey to its conclusion is more enjoyable than the original game.
The reworked story revolves around a strange phenomenon occurring in the skies around the world that has scientists baffled. You play as Shelia, an agent for the Supernatural Science Research Organisation, who's sent in to investigate. It doesn't take long for Shelia to discover that this strange phenomenon is also connected to some mysterious history between two interconnected worlds. If this sounds like complete nonsense, it's worth noting that the only way I know all of this is because I looked up the game's synopsis. Trying to glean any of this information from the opaque narrative is an impossible task. Whether this is intentional or due to something being lost in translation is unclear, but it's difficult to care about anything that's happening either way. Thankfully, keeping track of all this sci-fi gibberish isn't entirely necessary.
The specifics of the story will be the last thing on your mind once you start slicing and dicing your way through Bright Memory: Infinite's enemies. The shotgun is a bit of wet squib, but the rest of Shelia's modest arsenal is fun to use. Headshots are met with a lofty blood spurt and a satisfying slow-motion flourish, while combining Shelia's firearms with her assortment of other abilities is a genuine treat. The Devil May Cry style ratings might be gone, but you can still use Shelia's light blade to launch enemies into the air and then blast them out of the sky with all the gusto of Dante. The sword can also be upgraded to the point where it flings cleaving projectiles of its own with each swing, giving you the opportunity to utilize the deadly blade without having to be within touching distance. There's still a limited range so this doesn't negate the need to use firearms, but it does make it easier to juggle enemies once they're suspended in midair.
The sword functions as a defensive tool as well, letting you deflect melee attacks and send projectiles right back at your foes. Time it right and you can also stun enemies and tear a big chunk out of their armor bar, leaving them open to a devastating combo. This might come from a barrage of bullets or a rapid salvo of sword strikes, but Shelia also comes equipped with a cutting-edge Exo Arm. This device can unleash an electromagnetic pulse wave that turns enemies into a pulpy mush, while its tractor beam can pull foes towards you before you send them back in serrated pieces. There's a diminutive skill tree that adds a few more abilities to your repertoire, like a rocket-propelled punch and a powerful ground slam, so there's some room to experiment with different combinations and dish out more damage in one fell swoop.
There's decent enemy variety, too, as you switch between fighting futuristic super-soldiers and mythical beings wielding swords, spears, and shields. Most enemy types won't force you to alter your strategy too much, though, with the exception of armored enemies that dampen the potency of your attacks. Using the sword's counter will break through this armor, so it's not the most elaborate deviation, but it does change the way you have to approach some of the adversaries you come up against.
Attempts at gameplay variety aren't nearly as effective, however. One of Bright Memory: Infinite's strengths is its unrelenting pace, so it's disappointing when this comes grinding to a halt in service of a rudimentary stealth section. Armed with nothing but a blood-stained cleaver, this overly long sequence has you sneaking through a village while trying to avoid being spotted. The instant fail state for detection is bad enough, but this section is so stiflingly linear that it may as well be on-rails, while its inclusion is also misguided in the grand scheme of things. Adding some gameplay variety might work as a welcome palette cleanser in a longer game, but you can finish Bright Memory: Infinite in an hour and 20 minutes, so breaking away from its dynamic action for a tedious digression feels like a waste of its limited timeframe.
There's a brief car chase that fares slightly better--although there's not much to it--and boss battles introduce a sense of scale to what are otherwise close-knit fights. There's just not a lot of strategy involved in defeating these gargantuan foes other than dodging attacks and firing back. The grey, rain-soaked environments also lack diversity--for as visually stunning as they often are--but the game's brevity arguably works in its favor in this instance since you're not around long enough for them to grow stale.
Bright Memory: Infinite's most egregious issues are unfortunately of a technical variety. These faults range from subtitles and ability descriptions still appearing in Chinese, to a game-breaking bug that completely halted my progress. After defeating the second boss roughly halfway through the game, I was booted back to the main menu with no warning. After trying to continue my save, the game would revert back to the first splash screen as though I was launching it from Steam again. Trying to choose from the chapter select didn't work since that was now blank and closing and restarting the game application did nothing, so the only thing I could do was restart the campaign over from the beginning. It's not clear if this is a widespread issue, and I did manage to finish the game without it happening again, but it's obviously something that can occur unless there's a day one patch that fixes it.
Unskippable cutscenes made replaying the first few levels more of a chore than it should've been, and the same remains true if you opt to replay the whole game on a higher difficulty level after completing it. There's nothing else to do if you want to eke out some additional replayability, and Bright Memory: Infinite's short length is certain to put some people off. It's a fun shooter for as long as it lasts, though, offering a satisfying mix of fast-paced gunplay and dynamic action. It's also hard not to be impressed that this came from the talents of a lone developer. Unfortunately, a dismal stealth section, unintelligible story, and some major technical issues hold it back, while its terseness does make it difficult to recommend, even at a low price point.