I’ve often made mention of my enjoyment of Shmups. There’s something about the simple yet frantic arcade action that draws me in every time. So when I,AI dropped by the Tavern I was keen to give it a go. Unfortunately it turned out to be far more of a slog than a joy to play, with little to even make it worth recommending, let alone stand out among its peers.
For me the biggest flaw is just how slow the game moves. Early stages especially suffer from this; with few enemies to fight, the drawn out pace of the scrolling screen is even more apparent. Our ship feels at odds with the slow scrolling, moving around at a much better speed, but there is also no analogue control – we’re either moving full speed, or not at all. This can mean making small adjustments to our positioning is tough, and more than a few times I nudged myself into danger, rather than out of it.
Perhaps ironically for a game set in space I,AI also lacks any sort of atmosphere. Some energetic music or sound effects might have helped alleviate the dull pacing but as it is all we get is a generic sci-fi ambient backing track and some of the most mind numbing gun sound effects I’ve heard. It seems that Satur might be aware of how tedious this audio is too – we can turn down just the main gun should we wish (and we did wish).
Add in the weak state in which our ship starts and it can lead to a feeling not of excitement, but tedium.
And when I say weak, I mean weak. Across defence and attack we start off almost laughably under-powered. Even the lowest ranking foes take too long to clear out, and that’s before we run into anything substantial. Just one or two bullets feel enough to wipe us out, and they are easily hidden behind exploding ships or nearby space rocks. Of course, the aim is to avoid these while going on the attack but that can be easier said than done.
We’ll swing round to some positives for a sec because it’s not all bad here. I do like the idea of the upgrade system that is implemented; each ship destroyed drops some currency that can be used between missions to upgrade our guns, add new abilities such as a powerful laser or shield, or increase or defence and life count. When we upgrade something there is a tangible improvement to our ability in game, and there are a good range of options that can be upgraded by quite some margin.
The cost of these upgrades is extortionate. The first tier isn’t too bad, but after that then we’re into thousands of credits per weapon, per upgrade. Circling back to the slow pace again, it takes far too long to gain enough to upgrade just one thing, and without being powered up I found myself just grinding (and most likely failing, thereby halving any credits I did get as a penalty) the same level over, and over, and over in order to get enough credits.
Perhaps the most egregious is getting an extra life; 5000 credits are needed to get just one, and without it no matter where we die in a level it’s an instant failure and restart. I even got caught out a few times after defeating the end of level boss, their final attack wiping me out seconds after they fell meaning I – you guessed it – had to start from scratch. Even my upgraded health would be wiped out in the blink of an eye by the lowliest of attacks, and one in particular is an instant kill no matter how much health we have. It’s not long before the game is throwing a complicated range of enemy types at us at once, and while it’s hardly rivalling the best bullet hell patterns out there it still gets tough, especially when we factor in all of the above points. Levels are long too, far longer than they need to be, and far too long for such a leisurely pace, which only compounds things when we die at the end of an 8 minute slog.
I tried so hard to enjoy I,AI. I don’t mind a good challenge, but the key to getting me into retrying over and over is to have that challenge be fun. Unfortunately I,AI’s slow pace, weak ship and drawn out upgrades mean that the fun ran out long before it should have.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.