released on Sep 01, 2008

Iji is an action-packed strategic platform shooter with a detailed story, large levels with multiple paths, powerful bosses and lots of secrets. There are alternate gameplay events, dialogues and scenes depending on what you do, a wealth of extras and bonus features, and seven stats to upgrade through a leveling system. Iji herself has superhuman strength and abilities, and can crack Nanotechnology, use her enemies' most devastating weapons against them, and be a pacifist or a killer - the story adapts to how you play.

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Really close to a ten. Love playing this, love the style, love basically all the important things. However, the execution of some story beats can be a bit clunky at times, particularly relating to your choice to spare or slaughter. There don't seem to be any major consequences on the events that unfold if you settle on the latter, and it more just kinda serves to make you feel like a dick. It'd probably not matter much if there wasn't really a pacifist option to begin with. Hard to say.

played for the backloggd discord's game of the week may 2 - may 8, 2023
Iji is an inspired historical freeware title which i pay plenty of respect to, but simply did not have the patience for. while i admire the weightiness of the legitimate "choices matter" philosophy and synth drum samples, one small part of an incredibly powerful score (my personal highlight), the repetitive level and encounter design quickly grew dull, most certainly owed to poor upgrade investments. no one's fault but my own.
as well as the title definitely not being to my genre, i tried but just would not mesh. i more or less considered my experience of it alike a tasting platter, content in seeing Iji how i have, and may pursue a video or two to get some closure on her compelling story which begs completion of any kind.
it's not you, Iji, it's me :(

     ‘Sometimes a god comes. He brings a new way to do a thing or a new thing to be done. A new kind of singing, or a new kind of death. He brings this across the bridge between the dream-time and the world-time.’
     – Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World Is Forest, 1972.
Played during the Backloggd’s Game of the Week (2nd May – 8th May, 2023).
As early as Herbert G. Wells, science fiction was accompanied by a latent pessimism. In The War of the Worlds (1897), the author repeatedly compares Martians and Earthlings, pointing out that the cruelty of the former during their invasion is fundamentally similar to that of the latter. Humans are quite capable of illegitimate violence based on racial criteria, and capitalism is well suited to the exploitation of wildlife. These parallels are reflected in the lexicon used by the narrator: 'I crept out like a rat' (p. 249), 'we're eatable ants' (p. 255) [1]. In contrast to the image of a blissful and ideal humanity under attack from warring alien civilisations, this pessimism about humanity has spawned an entire artistic and cultural tradition that finds visible connections with post-Marxist militant anxieties. In The Word for World is Forest (1972), Ursula K. Le Guin explores the dire consequences of the Anthropocene and humanity's violent exploitation of exoplanets to satisfy its desire for expansion. As for space operas, the first novels of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence (1991-2018) explored with unusual evocative intensity the triangular war between humanity, the Xeelee and the Photino Birds, and its consequences throughout the universe.
     Pessimism in modern science fiction
While The Word for World is Forest offered glimpses of hope for a rebuilding of society on a more egalitarian basis and with greater respect for the environment, Le Guin's later works are marked by a heightened gloom, rejecting the march of progress as inextricably linked to violence and oppression. Perhaps because the focus is on a smaller scale, The Dispossessed (1974), The Eye of the Heron (1978) and Always Coming Home (1985) are much harsher about the effects of modernity, leading to the alienation of the individual, the reproduction of exploitative systems and the disappearance of a privileged relationship with the environment. Nevertheless, Le Guin's work, even when shrouded in heavy pessimism, still leaves room for discussion of the ontology of evil and the solutions, however impractical, for creating a better world. In a way, she has inherited the thinking of Ernst Bloch. The Weimar German philosopher, a follower and objector of Marx, sought to resolve the contradictions of social emancipation through the concepts of utopia and hope; for him, it was less important to resolve the questions than to imagine possibilities that would allow society to move from theory to praxis.
This long artistic tradition is expressed in Iji, which also features a triangular conflict following the double invasion of the Tasen and the Kamato, who have ravaged the surface of the Earth. The player assumes the role of Iji, who was visiting the D.C.M.F.P.R. Research Facility where her father worked. During the invasion, she falls into a coma and is subjected to scientific experiments by the survivors of the attack, giving her the ability to use Tasen technology. When she wakes up, most of the humans are dead and she must find a way to escape and stop the invasion, with the distant help of her brother Dan. Iji must travel through ten levels to find a solution to the problem and understand the issues surrounding the alien invasions. From the outset, the title appears to be a variation on the Metroidvania concept. This impression is relatively inaccurate: Daniel Remar originally conceived Iji as a fairly linear platformer, and despite the versatility of the gameplay, this initial structure remains. The graphic style is reminiscent of Another World (1991), with its flat colour animations. While Eric Chahi's game used rotoscoping, Remar opted for 3D modelling in Blender before rendering the final product in flat colours. The result is a visually charming title that subverts the similarity of all the enemies.
     Freedom of action in a non-modular level design
Iji offers a modular progression, not so much in its level design, but in the different approaches available to the player. While it is possible to traverse the levels in a blunt manner, backed by massive firepower, the player can also opt for a more subtle approach thanks to Iji's non-lethal weapons and hacking skills. Thematically, the pacifist route is the most interesting, if less immediately entertaining, given that, as of patch 1.3, it is possible to complete the game without killing any enemies. This alters the dialogue and progression, making Iji a real curiosity for its time. In practice, choosing a pacifist approach proves to be rather odd, as it often seems disconnected from the rest of the game's mechanics. Both alien factions prioritise fighting each other, and Iji is a footnote in their conflict; progression mostly boils down to jumping around to dodge incoming fire and finding a place to take cover. The title's generosity in refilling resources makes sense in the context of an aggressive run, but it almost trivialises a pacifist playthrough.
To compensate for the multiple approaches, bosses are less DPS races and more encounters where the player has to find the weakness and the method to triumph – often involving the environment. Such artificiality is not a problem until the final boss, which takes the opposite approach and becomes a battle of endurance, challenging the player's decision-making and reflexes, especially if they did not upgrade the firepower of Iji. The Assassins do not quite inspire the fear expected of them either: they present a slight challenge, but they never chase the player out of a given area: the easiest method is to keep going and ignore them altogether. In some respects, Iji has not quite figured out a unifying concept in its progression, and it somewhat suffers from the latitude given to the player. Nevertheless, the title is enjoyable and the levels, although linear, end before repetitiveness sets in.
     What is at stake when violence is used?
Iji is particularly expansive in its world-building; from the opening, the game seeks to highlight the anguish of the protagonist, contrasted with the apparent inhumanity of her brother. Crucially, the title scatters a large number of notes throughout the various levels, both conveying information about the weapons and detailing the motivations and perspectives of the two alien factions. Iji is ambitious, but the gamble is not entirely successful. The logs are too numerous and disrupt the progression more than necessary, occasionally drowning key elements in a flood of secondary information. By contrast, the best sequences are the pacifist interactions between Iji and the aliens, which feel more natural and elegant. Walking through a Tasen base without hearing a single gunshot is a striking counterpoint to the explosions that usually accompany alien skirmishes.
LunaEndlessWitch has accurately identified the narrative shortcomings of the title, pointing out a general lack of contrast that diminishes the symbolic significance of a pacifist approach. From the start, this option is implied by the game and presented as the only one that allows Iji to maintain her humanistic integrity. Yet no situation ever pushes her over the edge, forcing her to compromise – or even question – her ideals. In the Xeelee Sequence, Baxter presents each faction's acts of violence without elliptical detours, but the various actors invoke their necessity in the name of survival and progress. In particular, humanity manages to justify its xenophobic wars of aggression by arguing that they are carried out in self-defence. Such an approach does not work in Iji, since the protagonist has nothing to lose beyond her still pure ideals; not surprisingly, she declares that she is willing to lose her life in the name of her values, because she is not committing anything for which she is accountable. Despite the hollow and superficial tones of the Kamato's populist rhetoric, she can only counter with sanctimonious sermons, lacking the necessary perspective to radically confront this xenophobic philosophy.
Iji appears as a historical curiosity, representative of a free creation in the field of video games. Driven by the vision of Daniel Remar, the title is of colossal proportions. Remar explains his working method on his website, and there is a real unbridled passion in his act of creation. Offering an experience that promotes replayability, Iji feels organic and ambitious in its plot, but it does not quite manage to create an elegantly crafted experience that pushes its protagonist into a corner and forces her to make difficult choices. Interestingly, Remar seems to have quickly realised Iji's limitations, pointing out that his other, more humble titles are probably better designed [2], thus demonstrating a true love of the medium.
[1] Herbert G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, Heinemann, London, 1898.
[2] Daniel Remar, « Интервью с создателем Iji, гейм-дизайнером Дэниэлем Ремаром (Daniel Remar) », on old-games.ru, 22th April 2015, consulted on 4th May 2023.

Iji is one of the most ambitious games of this size that I've seen, especially for coming out back in 2008. Made almost entirely by one person, this is basically an action platformer/immersive sim, which is a combination I don't know that I've seen before. There are different approaches to combat and exploration depending on how you spec out your character's stats, from handling different types of weaponry, to strength based melee builds, hacking (which is actually a pretty cool stealth-ish playstyle where you can hack enemy weapons), or just becoming a tank so you can run through everything. I did a mostly strength focused build (though I got enough levels to try out a bit of everything by the end) and went full lethal, although pacifist runs seem to have been considered as at least a mostly viable option, and there are parts in the story that seem to reflect that choice.
All of that stuff is cool and very ambitious, and it more or less works, but it does come with some downsides. The controls are very stiff, particularly only being able to attack while standing. You often want to crouch behind cover or jump over attacks and are helpless while doing that. The enemy attack patterns, although not that interesting overall, are at least decent about this though so once you get used to it it's not so bad. It just all feels very weird and like a modern game or a remake of this would do things differently. It's also not a great looking game. You're going to be looking at some low res programmer art characters against very basic and repetitive backgrounds for nearly the entire game, and some people aren't going to be into it because of that.
The balancing is also strange. Playing on the normal difficulty early on I was expecting it to get kind of tedious (though it hadn't yet) with the awkward controls and sprawling levels, but it never really did. I think part of this is because you get really, really overpowered by the end if you're collecting the maximum amount of XP per level. You're limited to leveling up 5 times in each zone, and while I get the reason for the cap with you already being able to become overpowered even with that, it feels like it should have just been balanced better without an artificial cap in place. That being said, being overpowered was pretty fun and the awkwardness of the game might have gotten more in the way if it was more difficult. I haven't tried the other difficulties so I can't really speak to those, but they seem like pretty straightforward numerical changes.
The writing is equally ambitious as the gameplay design, but less successful at achieving its goals. There's an absolute ton of lore and background info in text logs you find throughout the game, but there's also some pretty important info in these, which led to me skimming a whole lot. It could definitely use some editing down. The dialogue and narrative feel amateur at a lot of points but at least they're trying for something interesting and make an effort to tie into your choices throughout the game.
It's a weird game with a lot of drawbacks, and I wouldn't blame someone for not being able to get into it, but it's also just so ambitious and cool for what it is, and I haven't seen anything else quite like it.

Sempre que vou para os Windows 98, eu jogo esta merda.

A great Sci-fi horror story about war, oppression and violence held back by a low budget. The environments are incredibly samey, pacing is off due to the nature of the presentation and is overall just hurt by a lack of punch. Fun enough gameplay and great OST. Would love to see a remake.