The oddly named I, AI is the latest vertically-scrolling space shooter from Satur Entertainment. The name references the game’s Terminator-esque storyline in which a military AI suddenly becomes self-aware, and realizing its nefarious purpose goes rogue in an effort to escape from human control. It’s not the most original of storylines and it’s all told with static screens and a cheesy 1980’s computer-generated voice, but given that I, AI is an old-school space shooter, any running storyline is a step up from the usual fare.
In case you aren’t sure of what I mean by a vertically-scrolling space shooter – simply think of Space Invaders, Galaga, and Galaxian and you get the picture. It’s a genre that dates back to the earliest says of gaming, and I, AI does a nice job paying homage to this time-honored gameplay.
I, AI offers 20 levels of downright brutal gameplay. Each level has about 3–5 minutes of pattern-based enemy shooting that culminates in a boss battle – die at any point in the level, and it’s back to the beginning. Enemies and their weapons range in difficulty and severity; minions, turrets, warships, minefields, and more. Each attempt is a learning lesson as the gamer is tasked with finding the right pattern of attack to best address the enemies at hand and reserve health for the impending boss battle.
When destroyed, enemies leave behind hexagonal blue orbs which serve as credits to use in the hangar to purchase and upgrade the ship’s weapons and shields. Upgrading becomes absolutely necessary as the game progresses and the difficulty skyrockets. Thankfully, the game allows players to keep a portion of their earnings even if they die before completing a level, allowing them the opportunity to grind through a couple attempts in order to bank enough credits to get a necessary item. A word to the wise: for the best bang for the buck, focus on upgrading the main weapon as the special weapons are very limited in use.
I, AI’s in-game power-ups are randomly generated, and quite rare. Sometimes, but not always, reaching the alarm level in the ship’s health just might generate a health power-up, but that’s not always the case. And if a power-up appears for one of the special weapons, it generally only equates to one additional use rather than an escalation of damage.
The visual presentation is fairly basic for a space shooter. There’s nothing overly impressive, but it all gets the job done. The background layers deliver a futuristic ambience with enough action to add an additional degree of intensity to the already frantic gameplay. Often this is because it is not obviously clear which items are in the foreground layer (and therefore should be avoided) and which items are in the background layer (and thereby harmless), especially when new levels introduce moving items in the background that appear like they could be enemies. Of course, after a few trial-and-error attempts at a level it all sorts itself out, but it still adds to the overall visual barrage.
It should come as no surprise with a space shooter that the audio package would be a bit lackluster. And it is. But there are a few highlights – like an obvious change in intensity of each weapon’s sound effect upon upgrading, and the hilarious PC-generated voice for the AI protagonist.
If you are in the mood for an old-school shooter, you can hardly go wrong with I, AI. It might not be the best game in this time-honored genre – but at only $10, I, AI offers 20 grueling levels of gameplay, and enough old school replay value to make it well worth the investment.