Friday, March 13, 2009


This is Iji.

Iji is a platformer. It's closest to the old 2D Metroid games - you jump around, shoot enemies with an ever-growing collection of weaponry, hunt to find hidden rooms and items. (There are a lot of those.) The big differences come in the structure - it's a fairly linear platformer, moving you between distinct stages, although (in the later stages especially) the areas grow large enough to allow you a significant amount of freedom to roam - and the RPG elements. As you kill enemies and collect 'nanites'* (mostly, though not always, harvested from said enemies' corpses), you 'level up', letting you advance any one of a wide range of statistics. You could improve health, or attack, the affects of which are fairly self-explanatory. Or you could improve 'assimilate' - which lets you store more ammo - or 'strength', which lets you kick down tougher doors and tougher foes. Or you could improve 'crack', which lets you hack more advanced doors (and enemies!) and synthesize superior weapons; or you could improve either of the weapon skills, which let you acquire fancier and better weapons' from your opponents' arsenals. You get one and only one point per level, and no more than four levels per stage. The stages can be quite long.

What I am saying here is: there are tough choices to be made.

So - mechanically, as I described above, the game is quite good. There are a few, fairly small problems; you only move at one speed (which can make backtracking a small ordeal), and you can't fire while crouched or jumping; the latter, especially, being a significant hindrance. These do not overweigh the good in the game design - and it does so much right! - so if there were no plot at all to the game, I would still recommend that my reader have at least a brief look at it.

But, of course, that is not the case.

The key things about the game's plot are these:

  • It's somewhat sterotypical - especially at first -but very well-written, and moves beyond stereotype fairly quickly.
  • It forks.
There's not much more I can say about it without spoiling things. The nature of plot. But it's quite good, trust me.

But perhaps the plot isn't what I meant at all. Here is the thing: the game evokes emotion in me. Not rampant joy - 'Ha, ha, I have slain you all, monsters!' Ah - sometimes that, though rarely. More often, I feel - pity. Regret.


Because I know that, for all the many weapons the game grants you, there is a choice not to kill; the game can be won without ending a single life, an achievement the game recognizes. Because I have this choice, and because of the journals scattered around the levels, giving some element of personality to my endlessly butchered foes - my choice to kill has meaning. There is a weight to it - a rather evil weight, to be honest - that simply does not exist in a simpler game.

And something more - perhaps a spoiler -

At the beginning of the game, the protagonist is extremely reluctant to kill. With nearly every enemy death she causes, she cries out in some way - "Why?" or a sob.

As the kill count rises, she falls silent. And then, eventually, she begins almost to celebrate the killing - "Just die!" she shouts.

She is losing her humanity - becoming a sort of killing machine. And it was my choice that determined that.

That affected me.

In any case! It's a very good game, and well worth a look, especially as it's free. Download from here. Windows only, sadly.

I started on Hard, but this was probably a poor choice. I would advise others to begin on Normal, especially as the manual hints that certain unlockable-things are only to be found on that difficulty level.

Beware the grass-mud-horse.

*This is probably the game's greatest weakness: technobabble. I mean, really. Nanites?

It's only really intrusive at the beginning, though; there's less reference to the nano-nonsense later.

In compensation, there are laser-daggers.

No comments: