Rise of Indie
I’m going to skip a bunch of games to talk about this game, and then we’ll head back up to where we were before.
I grew up playing indie games. I remember playing Jumper and Jumper 2 by what is now Matt Makes Games. I remember scouring the internet for Mario-clones and playing bullet hell games like rRootage and Tumiki fighters. I remember being hyped for Jumper: Redux because it had multiplayer. I was curious how big indie games were going to get. Well, as we know now, they’re everywhere, but I really feel like there was that second surge of indies that, for me, started with An Untitled Story (also Matt Makes Games) and Iji.
Iji is a free, side-scrolling shooter made by Daniel Remar. The protagonist Iji is a young woman on Earth where an alien invasion is taking place. She is turned into a cyborg to give humanity a fighting chance against the aliens. However, as you go through the game you learn more about the aliens. You decide how to approach the invasion. It’s up to you to bring peace or death.
Iji proved so many things to the indie world. It proved there were great stories and lore in indie games. It also showed a great system with the level up of skills that affects the way that you play through the game. You can choose between two different weapon technologies (or really, both if you want). There are exciting secrets that you can find if you were cheeky enough. And, there is also a bit of a “choices matter” element to it as well.
I also love that it is kind of a balance between classic side-scrolling shooter and metroidvania. Your choices for your skills can determine if you can reach specific places. Hm. I guess that is just like a normal game these days like Dishonored or something, but still. It’s really well done. I’ve never had problems with glitches. It’s fun discovering different weapons and enemies. The world felt very new because this deep world wasn’t as common in the indie world back then.
Let’s be honest, a lot of indie games back in the days didn’t have super amazing graphics. I think that never having the most amazing computer until later in my life taught me that graphics don’t matter that much. They are always icing on the cake, and a cake without icing can be very delicious. Having the option of icing and what you can do with it has the potential of deliciousness though.
Indie games and growing up with games on the SNES also taught me one more thing: how graphics can represent things. These days graphics try to be real. They try to literally be the thing that they are supposed to be, but back in the days you had to create a representation. The graphics had to make you feel like it was the thing without completely looking like it. And limited graphics really weeds out those who can’t do it. Iji does whatever it needs to make it feel like what it needs to show. I don’t need perfectly detailed Tasen aliens to know what they look like, because Daniel already got the feeling down and that is a beautiful thing.
Also, the music. The music is amazing. The entire soundtrack is so strong. The very first sector’s song, Kinda Green, nails that perfect feeling of waking up in a changed world with changed abilities. The beginning is soft, with a repeating background and a soft melody. After two minutes, the music kicks it up with an electric guitar, but it’s still not too intense. It’s still a slower melody. The music feels just as apprehensive as Iji’s attempt to approach this new life, but she’s now on her feet and she knows she has to move on. The soundtrack’s increasing intensity keeps up with Iji’s emotional ride as she has to go through the story and as you go through the game.
The sounds are all fantastic as well. The different weapons and their crazy effects feel bright and new. The small particles of debris and rockets flying around. Every sound just brings more environment to what is now Earth under fire. I also absolutely love the short lines Iji says as well. It helps her feel alive, human, and malleable.
Iji is #55 on the ULTRA list. There are a few indie games that are higher on the list, but Iji is such an amazing game I still recommend to anyone looking for something to play. I am a very emotional person, and so stories and characters are always a strong point for me. I also loved that the protagonist is a female who isn’t sexualized or has some sort of romance. She just is.
Iji is also very high on the list because I feel like it opened so many doors to understanding video games and that is very important to me. It accomplished so much and did so much for me as a gamer and I can only show thanks for it. Just like with films, I feel like the ones that help us become better people or better at understanding people tend to resonate the most with me, and Iji has done that.
If you want to play iji go to Remar’s site here!
We’ll see you next time on ULTRA!