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AIPD

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Morphicon
Developer: Blazing Badger
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Shooter/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:

AIPD is a twin stick shooter available on the Xbox One that offers up large portions of shiny and glowy. Enemies both organic and machine glow softly in a myriad of neon colors. There are pulses of light that consume the screen. Every beam fired or bomb dropped is traced in some sort of colorful glow. If it had a box, the tagline for the game could be: "Glowy and shiny. Shiny and glowy."

AIPD is almost sure to give you immediate flashbacks to another similar game: Geometry Wars. Of course, itís not an exact replica by any means, but youíd have to try hard to ignore similarities. Some of the enemies in AIPD are more organic looking, for example, looking more like like giant viruses or bugs. I imagine thatís probably what they were going for, as you are probably fighting computer viruses in this game. Itís pretty on the nose for an acronym that spells out Artificial Intelligence Police Department.

Actually, the developers cite that one of the influences is a 1982 game called Mine Storm which came out for the Vectrex console. Fair enough, if you take a look at the screenshots in the links following this review, you can see the influence. Shooters with a geometric style like Asteroids and Mine Storm have no doubt influenced countless games that followed them. The simple, retro aesthetic has made a big comeback, so this is likely a style that will stick around for a while.

The game also seems to have only one main type of stage. Itís circular. Nothing wrong with simple, but itís worth pointing out that, well, the stage is a circle. Ok, so the stage can sometimes shrink at varying intervals, depending on the challenges youíve chosen to go through, but itís pretty much circular.

The sound is also appropriately electronic and techno-flavored. The music is fast tempo, matching the chaotic action happening on screen. Itís hard to imagine any other type of music for this style of art and gameplay. It would be a bit like trying to dub classical music over a video of a GWAR concert. Ok, nevermind, that actually sounds awesome.


Gameplay:

As long as weíre comparing games, AIPD has a lot more complexity than the aforementioned Geometry Wars, at least in the power-up and weapon department. This is not always a good thing. I found myself referring back to the instructions several times to figure out what power-ups/superweapons do what. One in particular I remember being clueless about is the snowflake. At first I thought: ok, so now my ship is surrounded by snowflakes, so I guess that might freeze my enemies or slow something? (It turns out it was a pickup that cools your guns off so they don't overheat as fast). Then thereís also some kind of bomb that drops when your guns overheat? That one took me a while to figure out because I wasn't sure if the bomb was coming from an enemy or from me. I had to refer back to the manual several times to figure several things out. Sure, this might be the point (itís a challenge), but it is still confusing at the start of this game.

But when you start to learn and internalize functions of all the various pickups, superweapons, omega bombs, and what-nots, the game does start to pick up. This could be a problem for co-op, however, if you want your couch buddy to just drop in. Thereís just so much to learn and it very quickly ramps up in complexity; it asks for more patience than the average shooter. Online multiplayer is not available for this game, so you will just have to patiently train your friends if you want to play with someone else.

Do the waves ever end? There are multiple types of challenges in AIPD, but the entire game seems to be only a Survivor Mode where you battle wave after wave of enemies until you are defeated. You could simply refer to it as arcade style play, as this was the case with many arcade games; just play until you canít play anymore or your ride shows up at the mall. Thereís nothing wrong with Survivor Modes, but again, this is a place where the game lacks variety.

You are rewarded for your endless battles, however. AIPD unlocks a number of bonus weapons as you reach certain lifetime accumulated scores. This is where the variety appears to kick in, with different weapons and ship modifications that really do stand out from each other. Thereís a shotgun type of close range weapon, for example, or an automatic targeting field that will zap enemies as they enter your view. Each weapon requires a different play style, so you can find something that will suit you.

You can also choose several tailored types of challenges, but these didnít feel all that different to me. Different enemies might be emphasized in one, while environmental dangers might be the big challenge in another. You can also tailor your own type of challenge if you like.

Oh, and another thing - remember I said youíre probably fighting computer viruses in this game? What does AIPD really refer to anyway? Are you tracking down rogue programs Tron-style? Are you playing the part of an A.I. cop on the beat? Maybe I should remember a couple of my favorite movie-watching space robots and repeat to myself, "Itís just a game, I should really just relax."


Difficulty:

Easy, Medium, Hard, and Blazing are the difficulty levels offered before you begin to play AIPD. With this being a survivor type of game, well, it mostly seems to determine how fast you die. Multiplier scores do not seem to be affected by the difficulty level, but the enemies do seem to be faster and swarm on you in a shorter time. They are also more powerful, causing more damage. Yep, higher difficulty equals you die faster, but get more street cred.

A big factor in the difficulty (mentioned earlier in this review) is the lack of convenient instructions. You canít get really good at the game until you understand how all the power-ups and pickups work. If there were a simple Tutorial Mode to teach you all of that, it would make learning the system a little faster and easier.


Game Mechanics:

AIPD is a twin stick shooter which in this case means that one stick controls the direction of the guns and one stick controls your movement. You view AIPD from the top down as you shoot through swarms of enemies.

AIPD performs fine, although the ship does feel a bit sluggish at times. That seems more of a gameplay balance issue than a control issue, however. And since there is a gun overheat element to the gameplay, you have to consciously hold down a button to fire. You might be used to some twin sticks that simply shoot wherever you point, but thatís not how things roll in AIPD. Again, this is not necessarily a drawback, but just an observation.

So if I step back and give a purely subjective view, I found myself a little bored with AIPD. The thing is, if it were a stand-up arcade game, Iíd probably really dig it. Thereís the lights, the sound, the non-stop action, and just the feel of being there and doing your best to get through the next wave: you can practically feel people walking by, watching you play, as they decide where to put their next quarter. But sitting at home on a console, that wave after wave type of gameplay just doesnít keep me interested.

By no means is AIPD terrible, however. It performs well for what it is, and there is a learning curve for those that like to challenge themselves. But after you get over the complexity of memorizing the weapons and other features of the game, thereís just not much more to it.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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