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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home1/thephan1/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 149.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home1/thephan1/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.

And finally we come to Iji. I had been meaning to post my thoughts on this game literally the week it came out, but I insisted to myself that I would complete the game first, as I do for all games I write about. Unfortunately, one thing led to another, and the review got delayed for . . . quite some time. In any case, let's take a look at Iji, one of the most enjoyable indie games I've played recently.

Iji is a sidescrolling platformer that focuses on exploration and combat. There are RPG elements, in that as you gain experience, you can level up various skills which allow you access to new weapons and abilities. However, there is a limit to how many skills can be leveled up, so the player has to choose which skills they wish to focus on. For example, a player could focus on leveling up their weapon skills and gain access to every single weapon in the game, allowing them to inflict major amounts of pain on any enemy that stands in their way. Conversely, it's possible to level up more passive skills, allowing the player to run through the game without killing a single enemy. (Though to be honest, a lot of the fun comes from blowing everything to kingdom come with your unnaturally powerful weapons.)

Screenshot 1
These are the guys you shoot at.

Graphically, Iji is reminiscent of the older cinematic platformers, such as Another World and Flashback. The character art is simple, and the environments are spare, though effective. Yet despite the simplicity, the graphical effects are quite amazing, especially later in the game when you get more powerful weapons and encounter more powerful bosses. Here the simplicity becomes something of a benefit, as you rarely lose track of Iji in all the blazes of firepower.

A heavy metal soundtrack compliments the nature of the game, providing a sense of urgency and giving the battles a very epic feel. Although it may not be as memorable as the soundtracks of some of the other indie games out there, it's still quite solid, and fits the gameplay well. The sound effects are also well done, and the weapons sound as powerful as they look. One aspect that I particularly liked was Iji's vocalizations. She'll mutter a curse under her breath when she gets injured badly, or shout "Die!" after taking down a particularly difficult enemy. It's a small touch that helps the player identify with her more, while making the game more immersive.

Screenshot 2
Iji's packing rockets.

The graphical and musical themes do contribute to a unique art style though, and that style carries through to the storyline, which is quite deep and well written. It follows the main character, Iji, as she deals with an alien invasion of her world, and the clash of three civilizations. (She, of course, deals with these events by blowing things up in a big way.) The storyline adapts to your gameplay style and the choices you make, which is a nice touch and allows the player to feel more involved.

To add to all that, there's a lot of replay value for the game. There are several difficulty modes (some of which are insanely challenging) as well as different styles of play and different skill choices. Also, most levels have hidden areas that only the determined player will find. Overall, Iji is good for at least a couple of runs through, and the tougher challenges harken back to the glory days of gaming, where the games didn't baby you.

Iji is one of the best free indie games I've played in a long time, and that's saying quite a bit. As a one-man project, it competes with Cave Story and the Touhou series in excellence, so you know it's going to be fun game. It's a Game Maker game, so Linux support is touch and go. Last time I checked, the game runs fine in Wine, but it doesn't play the music. (Which is definitely worth hearing.)
Download Iji here.
The fantastic trailer for Iji.

Highly Recommended.