AIPD – Review

Title   AIPD
Developer  Blazing Badger
Publisher  mamor games
Platform  Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Genre  Shoot 'em up
Release Date  Jan 29, 2016

While the name AIPD may conjure up images of some sort of Bladerunner-esque plot, this twin-stick PS4 shoot ‘em up eschews any of that nonsense and presents its particular brand of arcade action without even a text-based cutscene.

This is good because shoot ‘em ups don’t need plots and all you need to know is that AIPD is something of a greatest hits package of the dozens of twin-stick shooters it now shares a marketplace with. The obvious comparison is with Geometry Wars 3. It shares that neon look (and an electro soundtrack) along with very similar gameplay. Annoyingly, the game maps shooting to a button (although you still aim with the right stick) due to a tacked-on overheating mechanic, but aside from that, this is the usual template.

Most tellingly, the game has vanquished enemies dropping shards that increase your multiplier, a move straight out of the Geometry Wars playbook, and this is good as it stops you moving in set patterns and adds a little bit of risk vs. reward gameplay, which is never a bad thing.

Enemies come in various shapes and colours, each bringing their own behaviour, and that’s all good. You dispatch them fairly easily because you are satisfyingly powerful, but the game also offers up some different ship configurations to suit your style. New primary weapons can be unlocked, and these are decent as they are very varied – from missiles and machine guns to short-range lasers and auto-targeting plasma rays. You also unlock chassis types that change your speed, overheating rates, and recovery.

At this point you have a recipe for a very solid shoot ‘em up. The game itself is set over fifteen stages (ending in a boss battle) and doesn’t overstay its welcome, but then there are some design decisions which kind of spoil the party.

Firstly, there’s no limitless arcade mode. While it’s fine playing the short campaign stages repeatedly to improve your score, the lack of variation soon starts to grind on you. And then you have the biggest selling point, according to the publishers – the huge number of game modes.

This feature is something of a lie. When you play the most basic mode, at the end of each stage a choice of power-downs has to be made. These either weaken you, strengthen your enemies, or add environmental threats. Each comes with a multiplier reward, which is fine if you are chasing scores, but aside from that, each choice is just a compromise.

The constant weakening of your chances starts to get on your nerves. Shoot ‘em ups don’t work this way. You’re supposed to get better. You’re supposed to power up. As such, the game gets less enjoyable as you go.

You can also choose to start with any combination of twenty-four power downs activated, for a better starting multiplier, which is all well and good but that doesn’t count as ‘over 10,000 modes’ where I come from. That just stands for 10,000 slight variations that all make the game less fun than it is when you don’t select them.

Nah. After Geometry Wars 3‘s proper variations on the basic theme, these choices just seem incredibly thin. And without them, all you’ve got is a short fifteen-stage shoot ‘em up that you’ll be done with in an hour or two.

Score chasers may have some fun with the leaderboards, but given that your power-down choices are from two random power-downs at a time, some people will have an easier time getting high scores than others. I destroyed my fifteen-stage high score by stage twelve after getting a better run of choices. So it’s not a level playing field.

If you can ignore all the smoke and mirrors from that, there’s a solid and fun shoot ‘em up here that looks good, sounds okay and plays pretty damn well. But the sooner that people accept Geometry Wars 3 as the benchmark on PS4 and try to actually beat it, the better. Until then, this genre is kind of struggling a bit.

  • Solid gameplay
  • Decent variation in weapon systems
  • Reasonable presentation
  • Short-lived
  • Thousands of modes? Bollocks
  • Constant powering down is a bit disheartening
  • Uneven playing field for leaderboard battles

AIPD has a strong foundation but suspect design choices make it just another entry into a genre that is overcrowded and already mastered. There are worse ones out there but AIPD never really gives you a reason why it is worth the price of entry.

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