What is Iji?
Iji is a recently-released freeware game from Remar Studios, created with GameMaker 5.3. You play as a girl named Iji who, fortunately or unfortunately depending your perspective, happened to be visiting the military research base her father worked for when an alien species called the Tasen dropped through the atmosphere and nuked the base with a weapon called the "Alpha Strike". Knocked into a coma at the time of the strike, Iji awakens six months later to find that the surviving scientists have augmented her with a reverse-engineered Tasen "nanofield"-- a personal wall of nanites that protects her from harm and gives her all sorts of neat abilities above and beyond those of normal men. Naturally, she'll need those abilities to escape with her life.
The game was made with the graphical style of Out of this World
in mind. All character sprites were pre-rendered in a 3D modeling program and converted to sprite animations. Still pictures don't do the game justice. Watch the trailer:
Okay, so how's it play?
Iji is an exploration platformer-- think Metroid, Castlevania, and Cave Story. Your goal in each of the game's ten "Sectors" is to reach the exit by any means available. Along the way, locked doors, alien invaders, sentry turrets, and other hazards will impede your progress. However, in keeping with the tropes of this genre, there are many hidden paths that can only be accessed through creative means, like intentionally taking a rocket to the face in order to get blasted over a wall you can't jump high enough to clear. But there are plenty of points in the game where's it's just a matter of having the right stats at the right time.
So let's hear about those stats, eh?
One of the most fundamental parts of Iji's gameplay is its levelling system. As you pick up nanofield fragments from fallen enemies and the environment, Iji's nanofield will level up. Every time you level up, you get a point that you can spend at an upgrade station. There's a catch, though: you can't exceed a certain level cap per sector (which varies depending on the difficulty setting), so how you spend your points can affect what parts of the game are open to you and when. Here are the seven upgradable statistics:
: Simply put, how much damage you can take before you die.
: Iji's physical strength. She has a kicking attack that can be used to smash through certain doors and knock over enemies. If her strength isn't high enough, she won't be able to smash through some doors or knock over heavy enemies.
: Iji's attack power. Raising this stat increases the damage output of all of her weapons.
: With a higher Assimilate rating, Iji gains the ability to carry more ammunition. Also, she'll gain more armor (a subset of her health) every time you pick up a restorative item.
: Iji skill at cracking enemy nanotechnology. This skill has a broad range of uses, from unlocking storage containers and doors to sabotaging enemy abilities. For instance, if you sneak up behind an enemy and successfully crack his armor, it may explode and kill him instantly, or rig his heavy weapons to fire backward when discharged. A high Crack rating can help you avoid a lot of needless fighting, if that's your style. Finally, fusing weapons together at weapon stations requires the Cracking skill. A high Cracking skill can double your potential weapon loadout!
: Two separate stats with the same function. The higher your Tasen rating, the stronger calibre of Tasen weaponry Iji can wield. Similarly, when Komato-style weapons become available, the Komato rating dictates how powerful a Komato weapon Iji can use. Picking a side can work against you: many of the fused weapons mentioned above require a Tasen and a Komato weapon. So keep both of these stats high in order to get as many weapons as possible!
Furthermore, when you raise a stat to its maximum rank, you gain a powerful passive ability based on that stat. Max out your health, for instance, and you'll take less damage every time you're hit with a powerful attack.
Awesome! I'm ready to go frag some aliens!
Well... might want to give that a little more thought. It's not that you can't fight your way through the game-- that's what I did the first time. However, there are a ton of little details that you might miss if you just blast everything you see. The game tracks your body count, and modifies character dialog accordingly-- Iji's and several other characters'. There are a few tangible benefits to reigning in the bloodlust, as well: clear the first few stages without killing a single enemy, and you'll wind up with a few unlikely allies. What's most impressive about this system besides its attention to detail is the fact that, unlike many games that try to be "meaningful", Iji won't criticize you too heavily for your decisions. Whichever way you choose, that's the right way.
Okay! Fine! Where do I get it?
Download Iji here: http://www.remar.se/daniel/iji.php
Good luck, and enjoy the game! Plot, strategy, and exploration discussion to follow.