Vertical shooters come in many forms and I,AI places itself firmly in the easier and more accessible side of the genre. That doesn’t mean it has entirely sold its soul for gameplay sake though as there are a lot of nice touches throughout the game. It just means that its going to be much more fun for newbies or casual shoot em up fans rather than the hardcore bullet hell lovers.
I,AI starts you off with an underpowered ship and just one gun. You’ll be charting across 20 different levels with three difficulties. The difficulty changes up just how much firepower it takes to kill something rather than swarming you with more enemies and that is one of the reasons that I,AI is better served for beginners. The screen is vast and enemies are usually quite small, so you have plenty of room to manoeuvre and take down your prey.
One of I,AI’s best attributes is its upgrade system. As you collect currency from your enemies wreckage you can choose to upgrade your ship in the order that you see fit. This means you can focus on health, fire power or additional weapons. Soon you’ll unlock rockets, lasers, a shield and burst fire via lightning strikes. These additional attacks are limited per level but you can collect further uses with power ups in game. Everything you unlock has an upgrade path too although its linear. It does mean you get to choose what is important to your progression though. The additional weapons pack quite a punch but your best bet is to focus on your main gun power initially as one of the things that is missing from I,AI is weapon shielded enemies. You can hit everything with everything and it seems to hurt the same so focus on your main gun and you’ll be fine for a while.
Across the 20 levels, whilst space initially looks quite nice, the graphics rarely change much across the campaign. Enemy design is fine but the best is saved for the bosses – of which there are many. They all have simple attack patterns and largely do not offer much of a challenge but that is par for the course with the game itself. If you do find yourself struggling, replaying earlier levels can be helpful to grind for currency for upgrades. Veterans of the genre will not need to though and will blast through with ease.
If anything, that is my biggest criticism of I,AI – it plays it a little too safe. What is here plays well but it feels very by the numbers. The story is told with some nice still graphics and a crazy accent but implies this is part of a larger war and doesn’t conclude properly. There is also a strange freeze the very first time you play the game and something explodes. It only ever happens once per game session but its as if the game needs to load an explosion in and then its good to go from there.
Veterans will appreciate a new game in the genre but won’t get too much out of it but shoot em up noobs will find this easy, accessible and not overwhelming to pick up and excel in. The ability to change difficulty on the fly is handy for them and if you view I,AI through that lens, the game is a success. Just don’t come here for bullet hell thrills.
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