Waking from an unusual dream, Aria Adams finds herself in an unfamiliar room. At first, Aria doesn’t remember where she is but her emails inform her of two things: First, that she’s a hard-working Junior Puzzle Operative whose job is to generate energy for the Entropy Centre by solving complex physics puzzles. Stranger though, is how her emails imply that this isn’t the first time she’s woken in this room with amnesia. Upon leaving the room, Aria soon discovers that the Entropy Centre has been abandoned, and considering the place has been overrun by plant life it’s clear that it’s been this way for a long time.
Eventually, Aria finds the HED – the Handheld Entropy Device – an AI-assisted gun that can reverse an inorganic object through time. Armed with the HED, and with the perky assistance of the onboard AI Astra, Aria is finally able to solve puzzles and generate energy.
And the timing couldn’t be better, because Aria and Astra watch the Earth explode into a ball of fire. It’s now up to the only person left on the Entropy Centre to repair the reactor core and rewind time to save the planet!
In The Entropy Centre, Aria has to solve puzzle rooms by manipulating the timeline of different types of Cubes that have unique functions. By shifting through a Cube’s timeline, Aria can essentially bend time to problem-solve. Functions start off simple enough, with the first Cube simply being a heavy box that weighs down a switch. As you progress, Cubes will become more complex with the introduction of Cubes that can bounce, project holographic bridges or generate laser beams. Eventually, the environment becomes a big component that influences the difficulty of a puzzle, asking Aria to get Cubes to new heights, across chasms and past gates that disintegrate Cubes.
Ironically, the story explicitly demands that Aria should hurry but thankfully there is no time limit weighing heavy on her shoulders as most puzzles can be taken in their own stride. There are a few exceptions though, as there are some Indiana Jones moments where Aria must escape a room before it floods or the building collapses. If Stubby Games want to add a hardcore difficulty mode, the inclusion of a generous ticking time limit would be a welcome inclusion for speedrunners and gluttons for punishment alike.
Although predominantly a mind-boggling puzzler, there are rogue Entropy Centre assistant bots that perceive you as a threat, and Aria can use the HED to return their projectiles back through time to destroy them. The puzzle rooms that contain the rogue bots are easier to solve but require a more physical approach. Aria doesn’t have a health bar or medicine to top herself up with, so the most challenging part of these levels is staying alive long enough to find the mandatory switches. After a few deaths, you shouldn’t have too much of a struggle on your hands. Grit your teeth and push through it, and you’ll come out the other side with a fresh brainteaser to take on.
The quiet moments are filled with friendly exchanges between Aria and Astra, and it’s a delight to see the relationship between them blossom. It would feel even more genuine if it wasn’t for Astra living inside a time-reversing gun but due to the questionable circumstances of Aria being here, it’s difficult to see past the possibility that Astra knows more than she’s letting on. One addition that Stubby Games could have included would be a hint system, which The Entropy Centre does not have. It would be a match made in heaven if Aria could turn to Astra for a little advice, further strengthening their growing bond, while at the same time assisting players who might be struggling with a particular puzzle.
The Entropy Centre does a remarkable job of drip-feeding the plot as you progress from puzzle to puzzle, and although it’s not a horror game there is definitely an eerie disturbance resting beneath your feet, impatiently wanting to burst forth and consume Aria. There are 76 pieces of Intel to collect too, which flesh out most of the plot so even though they’re not mandatory you will learn significantly more about the purpose of the Entropy Centre and why it’s been abandoned. The Intel also addresses temporal plot holes that some of you might start asking yourself once you’ve fully absorbed the time-travelling rules.
Although the pacing and optional plot points deserve recognition, the conclusion doesn’t have the satisfying science-fiction-gone-awry conclusion that The Entropy Centre consistently makes you feel there will be. As you approach the final two Acts of the campaign, the mystery you’ve been chasing almost feels like a red herring. There’s nothing wrong with an ambiguous ending but it doesn’t have the right impact after several hours of teasing a more fearful, technophobic one.
Should you play it? Yes
Why… The Entropy Centre is a fascinating first-person puzzle game about the end of the world and one woman’s mission to stop its destruction. With approximately 75 puzzles to solve and a plethora of Cubes at your disposal, The Entropy Centre is a real brain twister. You will no doubt get stuck in several puzzle rooms, only to be hit with a bolt of realisation at the dinner table later that evening, and the rush of satisfaction upon completing a puzzle is addictive!
But… A game about time travel deserves a story that is as twisted and as difficult to digest as the puzzles. Relishing the ending should be as rewarding as it is when those difficult puzzles are eventually solved. Unfortunately, The Entropy Centre serves a cocktail of paranoia and existential dread but ultimately fails to deliver on that promise.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X/S
Developer: Stubby Games
Playable on: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
Released: 3rd November, 2022