Great game, weakened by sub-par AI
Iji is an astonishing accomplishment as a freeware game, and might well be the best free game made (sorry Star Control II). Not only that, but it is a great game in its own right. For its fighting bits alone, there is healthy RPG system, large amount of distinct weaponry that can be increased further through weapons crafting, reasonable selection of enemies and great late-game bosses. This is not even getting into the cool hacking mini-game, broad Metroidvania levels with well-hidden secrets, amazing attention to detail (there are breakable lamps and P Cs, tiny ants running on levels and windows showing acid rain outside) and the excellentsoundtrack. While Iji would have been good with those elements alone, its storyline is the clincher. Conveyed through the non-interactive dialogues and text logs scattered around levels, it is surprisingly mature and realistic. You're questioned on the morality of fighting their way through as weíre confronted with the circumstances facing Tasen and the grim situation on Earth. It also explores the blind fear and paranoia which led to the whole tragic situation, the complicity of the powerless to go along with terrible things and the power of the mob to enact them/ force them into being. However, it also manages to include genuine light-hearted moments and provides you with a degree of choice, which is reflected in Ijiís character progression and the storyline itself. Other characters also get detailed personalities and thereís a surprisingly poignant subplot with a character you never meet directly. Unfortunately, there is one significant downside which hampered my enjoyment of the game: enemy AI. While it is not bad when compared to similar games, it sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to other elements. Simply put, it gets rather hard to sympathise with Tasenís plight at times when they regularly manage to blow themselves up with explosive weapons: pacifist runs of levels 4 & 5 in particular often end up with half enemies dead even without Resonance Reflector abuse. Similarly, it would be great if they didnít randomly turn their back to you in the midst of a shoot-out and crouched down when reloading/not firing: right now some levels feel like cover shooter where only you can use cover. I would've gladly traded the effort put into hiding all posters around levels for those changes.
Easy-to-understand mechanics, tons of depth, and gameplay that affects the story
On the surface, Iji seems to be little more than a simple 2D action game of the "kill enemies, reach end of level" variety, although with large exploration-oriented levels - already a good start. But beneath the surface is a lot more. The upgrade system adds most of the depth to the gameplay. You get skill points, but a limited amount per sector. So what aspect do you upgrade? Your ability to use more powerful guns? Your ability to kick more powerful doors down? Your hacking skills? Your health or ammo limit? Where you place your skill points has a huge effect on how you'll play the game. You might diversify your weapon set or be forced to rely on only the low-end starters. You might have access to more of the sector and be able to kick down more doors and explore more places, or instead be limited to the areas blocked off only by low level doors. Since there's an overall limit to your skill points, you're forced to make decisions that allow you to do one thing, but not necessarily another. A very surprising element of Iji's depth is in its story. It's rare to actually feel like you have an effect on the story, but here, Gameplay And Story Segregation is largely dealt with. Many actions affect the story in ways both big and small. If your kill count remains low, or even at zero, some aliens will come to respect you and even join your side. If your kill count is high, some aliens fear and hate you. Iji herself even changes her perspective of the aliens and the situation based on not only how much you kill, but also events like if she encounters the dead body of an alien who committed suicide in grief, if her brother dies, if she reads certain logbooks that reveal more of what the aliens (including the anti-war ones) think, and so on. Iji's personality is somewhat malleable via actions in the gameplay and story, which is rather impressive and adds a rare amount of character depth. She can be a reluctant killer, a total pacifist, a regretful killer, or vengeful for what the aliens did to the Earth. Iji undergoes a lot of character development in only 3 hours of gameplay. Your actions decide what kind. It's incredible that so much depth has been packed into such a short game, creating tons of replay value, to say nothing of the many hidden secrets. But Iji is an amazing indie gem. And it's free.
An under-loved indie gem
Daniel Remar's Iji is one of the greatest games I have played, full stop. It's a side-scrolling shooter with some platforming and RPG elements... but to leave it at that would be criminal. Iji is an ordinary girl who just so happens to get caught up in a huge disaster, and she's extremely realistically written - scared to death, just like you would be if aliens came to say hi on Bring Your Family To Work Day. One thing that stands out about the game is the extremely emotionally moving story. It touches on a lot of issues and it wakes the player up to the horror of things such as genocide and racism, and the consequences and triggers involved. With that said, the best person to play this game would be one who's actually interested in the story as much as the gameplay. The gameplay itself truly sparkles - seamless controls, thought-out level design where every secret requires just the right sort of thinking, and nothing is too Guide Dang It or All There In The Manual - all the information you could want and more is sitting right here in the game's 'logbooks'. It has massive replay value, a very flexible multiple-endings story and some of the most satisfying explosions you will ever see. On the offhand, some of the more difficult achievement grinds can become almost infuriating, and as mentioned earlier, it won't appeal too much to the gamers who just want to get into the game and see random paraphernalia and people explode, because there's a lot more to the game than that. To summarise, play this game. It won't take you a moment to decide you don't want to if you in fact don't, but if it is your thing, you're going to feel very rewarded by the end.
A game well worth a look
Iji is a platformer game in the vein of Flashback or Blackthorne, but with some RPG Elements. Namely, you level up and can build up a number of skills. But you can learn that much by reading the article. Iji is a highly unique game. When the game begins, the titular heroine wakes up from a coma to discover that the facility she was visiting was taken over by aliens, and not only that, but she's been pumped full of alien nanotechnology so that she could fight them. Were this a typical game, she would charge screaming into combat, guns blazing, in the tightest clothes she could find. But this is not a typical game, and Iji is not a typical heroine. Rather, she is an average girl thrust into fantastic circumstances. And like any average person would be in a situation like this one, Iji is terrified. But she does the best she can. How she does it is up to you. Like many gamers, my first instinct was to blast my way through each level, and to be fair, this is a perfectly viable strategy. However, Iji does a good job of - with want for a better word - humanizing the enemy, and without giving anything away, after beating this game, I was very much inclined to do a Pacifist Run. The gameplay is very solid, the graphics have a unique aesthetic, and the writing is excellent. On top of that, with several difficulty levels and more hidden stuff then you can stick a shake at, this game will keep you busy for awhile. If this review doesn't make you want to try the game, then consider this: On our very own forums, the discussion thread for this game has been going on for over five hundred posts. That should tell you how much this game has to it. And if you've somehow managed to miss this bit, don't forget that the game is free. All you have to lose is time, and if you're browsing this site, you probably have that in spades. So give Iji a try. It's not often you get a product of this quality for free.