‘AIPD’ Review

Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Developer/Publisher Blazing Badger

Genre Twin-Stick Shooter   Platform Played Xbox One

Artificial Intelligence Police Department, or AIPD, tasks you with eliminating evil artificial intelligence, presumably in cyberspace. In order to accomplish this feat, you are given control of a weaponized drone with numerous power-ups appearing throughout gameplay. Being a twin-stick shooter, AIPD has relatively intuitive controls with the deployment of power-ups being the only slightly awkward mechanic as you must depress the analog sticks. The sole reason this is awkward is simply that it’s easily forgotten since many games in the genre forego using the sticks for anything other than shooting or movement. Once you remember to utilize the power-ups, your chances of success greatly increase and you begin to see the variety of items found within the title.

In order to contain the chaos and create a far more hectic environment, AIPD opts to use a circular arena. This choice is a small one but has significant ramifications. It minimizes the frequency with which you will find yourself completely surrounded, but it also means that there is less space to move around than in some of the other recent games in the genre. It would have been nice to see a little more variety in arena shape and size, though. Throughout the entire game it is just the one arena and by the time you complete enough rounds to take on the boss, you’ve maneuvered enough so that most of the challenge stemming from the arena shape is gone.

The visual style chosen for AIPD is phenomenal, ensuring that any passerby or player is instantly intrigued by the events unfolding on the screen. The bright neon colours and enemy design seemingly inspired by 80’s science fiction combine for a very alluring visual. Perhaps what makes the appearance of the game even more impressive is that the character and arena designs are not terribly complex, but still possess a great deal of detail. The enemies are composed of only single colours and have more empty space in their bodies than actual solid colour but they still look incredible and unique. The arena and movement tails are made of neon circuitry while the background is simply a pattern of hexagons. None of these design choices are as intricate as they perhaps could have been, but the simplicity has allowed for more attention to be paid to each aspect and it truly shows while the game is being played.

Another strength AIPD possesses is the inclusion of game modifiers. These vary from faster enemies to damage being dealt if you touch the arena wall, and each activated modifier increases the score multiplier. Through playing the traditional game mode, the end of each round forces the player to activate another modifier, offering a choice between two randomly selected permutations. They may be two wildly different options or one of them might even be a modifier which you have already activated, essentially leaving the difficulty in the same place. The fact that AIPD forces you to add a modifier after each round makes the experience far more interesting, as does the randomization of the options. These modifiers are also applicable prior to starting up a game, allowing you to customize a challenge for yourself or others. All of the modifiers are available upon starting up the title for the first time, offering thousands of unique combinations, and if you discover a certain mix that you truly enjoy, you may save several specific combinations to quickly jump into any time you please without having to select them repeatedly.

In order to further differentiate itself from other games in the genre, AIPD implements an overheating aspect to your weaponry. It forces you to be slightly more selective with your shots as the last thing you want is your guns going offline temporarily when you really need them. In addition to simply freezing up for a brief period of time, overheating your weapons releases a bomb onto the field which can damage enemies but also your own drone if you aren’t careful enough. You generally have enough time to evacuate the blast radius if you continue moving in the same direction once the explosive is ejected, but if you weren’t moving or had to suddenly change directions to avoid enemies, you will almost undoubtedly sustain some damage. With this knowledge, the overheating aspect in AIPD can actually be more beneficial to the player rather than the hindrance it was originally intended to be. Firing incessantly and dropping an explosive device into the arena provides more potential killing power so long as you evade the blast. When a design choice intended to hinder players slightly or modify the play style can be completely abused and eliminate most of the challenge associated with it, it becomes questionable as to whether or not the mechanic should even be included in the title.

Like most twin-stick shooters, the main draw for replay value rests with attempting to best your previous scores. There are added incentives for continuing to play, such as unlocking weapons or ship modifications by reaching certain lifetime score milestones, but unless an individual has a desire to strive for perfection, best a friend’s high score, or try out every possible modifier combination, AIPD will likely have the same shelf life as many other titles in the genre. There are not hundreds of levels, instead the game relies primarily on the modifiers and difficulty selection to do most of the heavy lifting which may leave some with a sour taste. Have no fear, completing the game on the hardest difficulty with all of the modifiers on is no simple feat, it will punish you relentlessly, but the replay value will be found primarily by perfectionists or completionists.

AIPD adds some variation to the traditional twin-stick shooter recipe, and while it succeeds in some respects, it is certainly not a revolutionary title. The inclusion of modifiers and the fact that they’re all available from the outset increases the game’s replay value, but not as drastically as one may hope. The modifiers provide a slight challenge but do not overhaul the difficulty or create an entirely new experience. AIPD is visually stunning, using the perfect balance of simplicity and detail to capture your attention while coating it all in vibrant, neon colours. Fans of twin-stick shooters will enjoy the title for as long as they can stand to chase high scores, but others less score-focused may tire of it after a few hours.

The Good

  • Gorgeous design and colours
  • Modifiers and difficulty levels allow for more customize experience
  • Game forces you to add a modifier after each round

The Bad

  • Modifiers do not drastically change gameplay
  • Replay value heavily based on chasing high scores
  • Overheating mechanic does not add any real value or challenge

The Score: 6.8