Entropy (n.): lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
Entropy (n.): a state of disorder, or a tendency towards such a state; chaos.
Entropy (n.): the theme of the game in review, and this opening joke.
When one has the power to change everything, and is met with a force that will not stop for anything – what exactly is one to do? When the Earth is in a really big mess, and your best solution is a really big gun, what could possibly go wrong? If one person can have a cat in space, why can’t someone else?
These are the questions that The Entropy Centre sets out and seeks to answer.
The Entropy Centre is a gorgeous juxtaposition of polished, orderly chaos. Taking place in the titular research centre in space, developer Stubby Games’ puzzler challenges players to solve a number of problems using entropy. In this case, that means the ability to rewind objects through time, sending them back along the paths which you have taken them on. It’s a clever mechanic, and put to increasingly satisfying use throughout the game’s 12 hour run time.
Of course, chaotic as our focus may be, we’re not solving puzzles in space for no reason. The Entropy Centre’s central premise revolves around an apocalyptic event that wipes out Earth. For the scientists at the Centre, that’s just another Tuesday. Every time a cataclysmic event comes, they reverse the consequences with a planet-sized Entropy gun, giving those planetside enough time to come up with a plan to avoid disaster. The massive Entropy machine is charged with entropic energy, which is generated by completing puzzles with the very same energy. And so, in the face of yet another cataclysm, protagonist Aria wakes up for another day of puzzling.
Except, it isn’t just another day. When Aria awakes, the station is in disarray, and almost entirely abandoned. As she ventures through the opening level, Aria meets E – an immediately adorable worker bot. Through digital facial expressions and surprisingly fluid body language for a cube on wheels, E conveys delightful personality. We’ve seen AI companions before, but they’ve never been quite so cute. E guides Aria further to find her main companion for the duration of The Entropy Centre: Astra. Astra is the AI inhabiting Aria’s entropy gun, and her foil for the rest of the story.
With an abandoned science centre, quirky AI allies, and puzzles to solve with a gun, you may be thinking of a certain other famous puzzler. You would be right to do so. After a very strong opening sequence, The Entropy Centre proceeds to wear its Portal influence on its sleeve. Whitewashed walls, rundown facilities to explore, and a cheeky AI with enough sardonic quips to rival GladOS. And yes, there are cubes.
Yet, despite such obvious inspiration from the outset, The Entropy Centre never once feels derivative. For one, instead of portals, players are made to think with entropy: time reversal. With a different central mechanic, the very nature of every puzzle changes. This is not simply a challenge of getting from point A to B. Aria’s gauntlet forces her to get herself and every item in the room from point Z to A, in the correct order, and at the right times. There are layers here, and they are expertly used.
The puzzles of The Entropy Centre are fun to work out piece by piece. Smart mechanics, like the ability to change a cube’s point of origin in a path, go a long way towards avoiding frustration. During my playthrough, most every puzzle challenged me enough to make me feel overjoyed – and a little intelligent – when I figured them out. Even the rough edges add to the fun. When pressing up against a wall while holding a cube, you run into some mildly glitchy wall physics. In a stroke of genius, these movements are still recorded in the cube’s path, allowing you to rewind it to places it probably shouldn’t have been. I took full advantage of this. Aria and I sent more than one jump cube to places they were never intended to be, and it was brilliant.
Similarly well done is The Entropy Centre’s pacing. New elements, such as different cube types, enemies, and other puzzle elements are also introduced at a good pace. Even 10 chapters in, I was being introduced to new mechanics to play with. From a storytelling perspective, too: puzzles frequently vary between controlled testing rooms and clever use of the wider facility. Cool story beats come often, and left me in giddy surprise more than once. There is never a dull moment.
This environmental storytelling extends even to the smallest details. Scattered throughout The Entropy Centre are all sorts of fun little additions to worldbuilding. Entropy Centre-branded cereals line desks. Interactable presentations show all sorts of pseudo-scientific stats. Most impressively, old computers with CRT monitors can be found with inboxes open. Each email gives insight into the lives of the people who once lived and worked here, and builds a lore to the centre. These tidbits are well written. While maintaining a lighthearted tone, the stories told through the emails still manage to find moments of gravity. The ills of unfettered capitalism, the results of overreliance on fossil fuels, and, perhaps most morbid, the consequences of time manipulation. Certain stories genuinely gave me pause, and made me think about the ethics of The Entropy Centre’s central premise.
Fortunately, these rare heavier moments are soon offset by the action. Throughout the puzzles, it is a joy to listen to Astra and Aria’s relationship develop. The AI is quick to quip, usually without realising. There is an earnest nature to her dialogue, and Aria plays off it wonderfully. Good dialogue also adds an extra layer to The Entropy Centre’s various set-piece moments. These set-pieces are sometimes as simple as casually catching massive debris during a story beat, which never stops being fun. Others, however, go further. Set-pieces include both simple spectacle and actual puzzles, the latter of which require some quick thinking and ingenuity – even under duress. The silo moment particularly stands out as a great experience, from both a character and gameplay point of view.
Speaking of views, The Entropy Centre boasts many. There are plenty of space vistas or artificial beach spreads, all brilliantly rendered in striking detail. Reflections are well done, movement is always smooth, and the entropy gun truly feels like it’s made of moving parts. This puzzler is effortlessly pretty, with some fast load times to boot. There are some collectible issues, however. The counter seems to be a bit off, and while you can chapter select after beating the game, there’s no way to see where exactly you missed any collectibles. This ruins an otherwise fun trophy hunt, which only would have added more fun.
Finally, the ending sequence of The Entropy Centre – no spoilers here, don’t worry – is my only other major gripe. The final lap has such brilliant and striking visual flair, which truly captures you from a narrative point as well. However, the actual ending itself is left to inference. While I can guess what happens given everything we’ve been told by that point, it remains a little disappointing to not get a definitive answer to the questions and mysteries that have been so built up. Then again, I suppose that is the very nature of entropy.
Even considering these minor hiccups, I cannot deny that I had a wonderful time with The Entropy Centre. Stubby Games’ puzzler manages to not only fill its influence’s shoes, but do something all its own at the same time. That is an achievement worth celebrating: a better tomorrow indeed.
Sarim played The Entropy Centre on PlayStation 5 with a review code. The Entropy Centre is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.