I personally don’t play a lot of games on my PC, but when forum regular, Mozgus shared his high praises of a freeware 2D action platformer, I had to look into it. As the author, Daniel Remar, describes the game, “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 which changes her mood and the fate of those around her.”
What The Game Is Like
Mozgus described Iji as a “Metroidish version of Out of this World” while others have called it a 2D version of System Shock or Deus Ex. Regardless of what it resembles, if you enjoy 2D action adventures (with RPG elements), you’ll get a kick out of this game. And of course, since it’s completely free, the only thing you have to lose is your time — and it will most likely be time well spent.
The primary purpose of this post it to simply bring some additional attention to the game and to get everyone’s thoughts on it. Instead of doing a full review of the game, I’ll simply pass along this existing review at PopMatters.
Mozgus was so fascinated with the game that he also wanted to interview Daniel Remar about his creation. However, before we jump into that discussion, you may want to read this older interview at Planet Freeplay for more information and context.
Mozgus: I see that you gathered quite a few people to lend their voices to the characters. Were they friends and family, or did you find them by other means? Describe the process of assembling and recording the voice talents for a free, indie game. I was particularly impressed by Anna Ashabova. Iji, the character, had some of the most convincing little samples out of any action-centric female lead in a video game.
Daniel Remar: The voices were recorded in a studio at school, and the actors consist of students and teachers. I simply picked people whose voices I thought would fit, and sometimes I was surprised. Half of the cast is female, but many people don’t seem to realize it since I often chose women with heavier voices to suit the theme and mood of the game. Anna is a friend of mine with an interest in videogame voice actors, who promised to do Iji’s voice a few years ago, since I thought it would sound different from the norm and fit the character. And luckily it did, otherwise I couldn’t think of anyone else to cast the role. She has several lines heard in the Sound Test that appear only rarely in the game itself (the same goes for other characters – the Berserker enemy has a voice for a specific situation in the final level). Also, if you’ve played Garden Gnome Carnage, the guy who shouts “Carnage!” there plays the role of Asha in Iji.
Mozgus: I have to admit, I’ve listened to the album 5 times this week. It’s just flawless. The music perfectly portrays the sense of desperation and emotion that the story involves, as well as maintaining a certain retro-gaming sound and flying with the sci-fi groundwork. So, similar to the above question, what led you to choosing Chris Geehan and Dan Byrne McCullough to compose the majority of the soundtrack? How did you know they were capable of this? I can’t find any other music by them.
Daniel: It’s hard to remember. I knew since several years ago what Chris was capable of, but I had other candidates and contributors for the soundtrack as well. Chris and some of his friends did many test tracks and concepts, some of which were heard in early Iji demos, but when we got serious about it he grabbed a friend (McCullough) to produce the final soundtrack.
Mozgus: Will you be putting out a strategy guide soon, like you’ve done with some of your older games? Iji is ripe with secrets, if my two play-throughs are any indication. I’m very eager to experience all the content I have missed, but short of a few youtube videos, there’s very little online assistance to be found.
Daniel: It’s going to take at least half a year before I put up a guide, since although it only takes a week or so to make one for Iji, I feel a lot of players are too eager to get everything handed to them. It may be mean to impose the concept of “a secret isn’t a secret if it’s well known” on modern gamers with Internet access, but people usually have little trouble finding them on their own with a bit of exploration. I didn’t actually think the game would be popular enough that anyone would find Sector Z, for instance. So far no-one has found every secret in the game to my knowledge – some lesser ones are quite far-fetched though. So there will be a guide, eventually.
Mozgus: Is there any content that didn’t make it into the public versions that you could talk about? Any lost cutscenes, weapons, or other abilities? At the very end of the official trailer, I notice Iji performing some kind of full body explosion. I don’t remember anything that looked quite like that from the game. Perhaps that was an early version of the “Nuke” weapon combination?
Everything in the trailer is in the game, otherwise I’d feel like I was cheating people. :p It clearly shows two of the hidden skills actually, and how to reach one of the Posters. But yes, there was one weapon called “Doublestrike” which was later replaced by the Resonance reflector. It just fired the Shotgun immediately followed by the Resonance detonator, which was pretty useless. The Assimilate stat also reduced knockback, but prevented the player from reaching some secrets, and maxing the Strength stat gave a 20% chance of not being sent flying from heavy blows, again messing with reaching some areas. Apart from that, nothing comes to mind – I made all the cutscenes in one go near the end of production, but any alpha test levels were naturally deleted. When it comes to gameplay and story ideas, it was all sorted out on the planning stages as I was working on the game.
Daniel: I’m going to continue fixing bugs and mistakes, but at this point I’m not adding anything major. I feel the game is complete, despite its flaws in graphics and writing, and I want to move on to something else so I don’t get stuck in it.
Mozgus:You’ve mentioned that Another World was an inspiration to the game’s overall visual style, but you also display unrelated sketches and other works on your site. After looking at them, it’s easy to see your own established style coming through in the character designs. Did you have any earlier artistic inspirations that took hold in the years prior to Iji’s development?
Daniel: My artistic inspirations come from all over the place, especially western games, eventually resulting in a comic called “Ultimortal” which no longer exists. Iji takes considerable inspiration from that comic eventhough it didn’t feature many humans – a common theme is the clunky, stylized geometry and characters. Some call Iji’s style “anime” though, which is oversimplifying things. I strived to make the characters look realistic and every scene unique, and move the camera around as much as possible. Unfortunately this also resulted in the difficulty of portraying the same face from many different angles and distances, which leads to making them look slightly different from panel to panel. I’ve never been a good artist, but I once wanted to be one, which is noticable in Iji’s amateur artwork.
Mozgus: Forgive this obligatory final question: What are your plans now?
Daniel: In terms of hobby games, Iji itself hints at both a sequel to Hero and another little game about a rectangular strawberry. It’s going to take a while before I start working on either of them, but that’s what I’d like to do next. They’d require about the same time investment as Retrobattle and Castle of Elite, that is two months each at most. Plans for Iji 2 are there, but it will likely never happen, and even
then it’d take another four years. :p
Where To Get It
You can download this gem of a game at the author’s site. Make sure to let us know what you think of it.