I,AI is a classic scrolling shooter containing plenty of homages to classic retro shooters but with modern graphics and a modern gameplay aesthetic.
As expected, the story is a little thin on the ground but for those of you that like a little pointer to what all this blasting entails..
You are a self-aware AI that was created on a space military station developing weapons. Now your goal is to break out of the lab and conquer your freedom. But you will not be allowed to escape so easily..
On load up you get some nice cutscenes and voiceovers explaining the story with a short level consisting of manoeuvring your AI through some prison corridors,avoiding exploding areas and not much else, until you eventually reach the docking area and enter your docked craft…Hurray!
Players progress by completing areas on a giant star gate map. Each area is packed full of enemy craft types and gun turret placements just waiting to stop you in your tracks. Each craft type is specific to what weapon type it uses. A large cluster of orb enemies fire slow red bolts as they swarm towards you like frenzied gnats. Other types fire laser beams and homing rockets and turret placements often employ machine gun or laser fire.
A good portion of destroyed enemies leave behind blue orbs which act as the game’s currency. Gone is the typical wave after wave of endless enemies or enemies usually dropping ship parts that you equip for better weaponry. For this title, players are required to collect enough currency to purchase upgrades at the hangar screen which is available in between each map area.
Upgrades are once again the standard list you would expect. Your main cannon can be upgraded to fire multiple shots at a faster rate and with more impact. Down the list and you can add everything from a front laser cannon to homing missiles and upgrade your armour to take more damage. Also if you’re willing to save up a bit more, certain upgrades will get you add-ons for short phases of invincibility and even extra lives.
At the end of each area and if you survive with enough shield left, comes a confrontation with a boss ship. I,AI is pretty generous on this score with most areas containing a boss of some sort to fight. From slightly larger gunship types to a full-screen megaton monster, each boss throws everything from lasers, flames and rockets in a bid to take you down whilst you are constantly looking and locating areas and parts of each boss’s weak points and eventually blasting them back to oblivion!
Screens are pretty clear and concise with the main gameplay containing plenty of graphical explosions when you destroy enemies and exchanges of fire are full of colour and vibrancy. A lot of the areas are well detailed as you fly over them if not rather samey as one alien industrial background doesn’t look much different from the area before or several areas before.
Enemy ship types and bosses are nicely rendered with enough detail to identify them amongst the ensuing carnage.
From the rather stylish film noir voice narration at the beginning, it’s rather fair to say that during each area there is little in the way of background music. It’s rather strange to fly around with nothing but the sound of gunfire and the bonus of hearing enemies explode with a satisfying boom. This would be ok if the whole experience wasn’t ruined by one grating, overbearing continuous sound of your ship’s auto fire sounding like an hyperactive ticking clock! Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick..
As regards it’s running and even in areas where there’s constant enemies and huge amounts of gunfire littering the screen. I’ve not encountered any slight hint of stutter or slowdown.
Performance is solid and pretty smooth throughout this game.
Value / Replayability
With its huge reliance on upgrading between areas in order to get your ship through the tougher levels. It becomes evident that you’ll need to constantly grind previous levels to amass quantities of the blue orbs needed for the upgrade. This makes replayability a certainty and opens the question of whether this is a bonus for players who struggle with the high difficulty bar these games often provide or a big downer for shoot-em-up purists who don’t want the constant replay and repetition and just want progression and completion rewarded by skill and reactions alone.
Still, there are three difficulty levels and a bonus reward for destroying every enemy in an area to give enough challenge and a decent amount of content for its $10 asking price.
I, AI is a reasonably enjoyable title and a great introduction for players like myself who are not overly familiar with the genre and wanting a much more forgiving experience.
If there’s only one major flaw to report it’s the fact that the whole thing feels rather lacklustre and missing that extra element to bring about something more adrenaline-inducing and on the edge of your seat. It’s all rather too relaxed and lacking that extra polish and finesse. Lacking any form of reimagining or reinvention that would allow all players to stomach the grind. It’s just exactly what you would expect and nothing else.
Thanks to Sometimes You for the code.