Since its launch back in 2013, the PlayStation 4 has become the hot new home for twin-stick shooters the world over. Housemarque’s Resogun set the ball rolling, and the bar high, and the recently released Nuclear Throne only cemented the console’s reputation as a twin-stick shooter’s paradise on Earth. Now a new contender has entered the ring in the form of AIPD (Artificial Intelligence Police Department) by newcomer Blazing Badger Studios (what a name).
The basic objective of AIPD is to blast to oblivion wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies, all the while trying to avoid a jab to the face in the form of a superhot laser as you seek to keep your ever-precious multiplier from grinding to a halt. The controls are tight, and respond quicker than Muhammad Ali on a double espresso. You’ll never feel hard done by the game’s systems, with any mistakes resulting from your own personal blunders.
Now, this might seem barebones at first glance, but AIPD throws more than a few curveballs your way in the form of mutations, glitches in the system if you will, which up the ante. At the end of every round you are given two mutations to choose from. These range from faster drones (the basic enemy type), to shielded enemy cruisers and even fewer pick-ups. Each adds its own particular flavour of nastiness, throwing new challenges your way to test your already strained skills to the limit. However, the more dangerous and diabolical the mutation, the greater your multiplier. Blazing Badger Studios dangles the golden carrot before you, yet surrounds it with dastardly dangers on route to the prize. These, however, can be counteracted via super-weapons which drop from defeated enemy cruisers. Possessing one of these beauties can turn the tide, and shift the advantage back in your favour.
Such assistance is much needed as AIPD is a tough game, brutally smashing you down just when you start to believe you’re getting the upper hand. The first few rounds start innocently enough, bombarding you with hordes of easily dispensable enemies, yet soon the bruisers arrive to knock you down a peg or two. Couple in the random, deadly mutations and soon you’ll be blown to smithereens. This will soon become a frequent occurrence, even for the most experienced twin-stick fanatics, and soon the demonic tentacles of frustration will envelop you.
Thankfully, such temptation to give in to the challenge and throw in the laser-scorched towel can be prevented by changing your loadout. AIPD offers players the opportunity to choose from a selection of primary weapon options. Don’t like the standard automatic laser rifle which is always prone to bouts of overheating? Then why not opt for the superb shotgun, or perhaps the phaser which does a number on your red-coloured foes. Such a menagerie of weapon-options adds a layer of depth, complexity, and personal flourish which does wonders in setting Blazing Badger’s entry apart from the competition. Supplement this with a selection of bonus ship-modifications, and you have the opportunity to easily define your own personal play style.
All of this glorious action is wrapped up in a Tron-tastic neon art style. The vibrant reds, shimmering purples and deep blues radiate magnificently, astounding your bewildered eyes as they dance in the light of the dazzling, computerised explosions. It’s a treat to gaze upon, though in later levels, when things start to get busier than the internet at Super Bowl half-time, the sheer volume of bright neon emanating from the screen can easily obscure the action. Things become too messy as you franticly try and pick yourself out from the pandemonium surrounding you.
Other issues arise upon completion of the game. AIPD ends after only 15 levels and, while this might seem like plenty, after you’ve sussed out the formula the lack of content progression soon becomes apparent. Multiple difficulty levels do offer some solace, as do the aforementioned mutators and ship loadouts, yet it’s impossible to escape the fact that there just isn’t enough here to lose hours and hours of your life to. The game can be best compared to a new band’s first EP. It’s good, offering a glimpse at the talent and potential to come, but on its own it can do little but be an interesting distraction. AIPD is, however, definitely worth a look, even if it’s just for a few hours. It provides some absolutely top-notch gameplay with plenty of player-driven choice, allowing for a level of choice rarely seen in its genre.