When it comes to top-down twin-stick shooters, the Xbox One is not exactly running short of options. We've got the outstanding Geometry Wars 3 heading up the pack, with a host of alternatives in the shape of We Are Doomed, Polychromatic, Crimsonland, Ultratron, and Sixty Second Shooter Prime all available if you fancy a change. With AIPD, developers Blazing Badger clearly feel that there's room for one more.
AIPD stands for "Artificial Intelligence Police Department" and unless you visit the game's official website, you won't have any idea why that moniker is in place. There's nothing in the way of an introduction, tutorial, or storyline to bring you into the action. A "How to Play" section provides some still images and diagrams giving you the lowdown on the game's mechanics and enemy types, but that's all you're getting. Fortunately, that's really all you need. After all, a top-down twin-stick shooter needs a story about as much as a chicken needs a bottle opener, but it would have been nice to have some sort of two-minute tutorial to ease players less familiar with the genre into things. As it stands, you pick a game mode, choose a difficulty level, select a primary weapon and support module, and are unceremoniously tossed out into the digital grid to start your quest.
That quest is rendered in a TRON-like neon style that we're very much fans of, with ships and enemies giving off just the right amount of glow to look very cool as they dart about the place. Gameplay is presented in waves. Clear all of the enemies from one wave and you'll be presented with an interstitial screen that brings in AIPDs first real innovation, the ability to alter the difficulty of the game on the fly in exchange for points. After each wave, you get to choose from one of two changes to the way in which enemies perform or the way in which the game environment affects you. Enabling crash damage when you run into the borders will grant you an extra 50x multiplier for example, but you could take the other option – a massive bomb that gets repeatedly and randomly dropped and that has to be collected before it kills you – for a 125x multiplier boost. These changes stay in play for the duration of the game's 15 waves, so there's a degree of tactical nuance to be had here if you want to survive and do so with a decent score. You certainly won't want to be taking any big risks earlier on, since you'll get some really nasty selections down the line that leave you between a rock and a hard place and that could make things all but impossible for you.
Another thing that AIPD brings to the twin-stick table is weapon heat. As you take shots, the meter to the right of your ship turns red to represent the guns getting warmer. Once you top that out, your ship disperses the heat in the form of a mine. This can be used tactically to take out an enemy or two, but it also has the ability to damage your ship, so you need to either keep moving, or keep an eye on the heat. Of course, your weapons overheating causes you to lose the ability to fire for a second or two, so unless you've picked up a "super" weapon (in the forms of a bomb, missiles, or a shotgun blast) you could find yourself backed into a corner with no options for long enough to be in serious trouble. Other pickups exist in the form of temporary shields, point boosts, and gun coolers, but having to activate these manually is a little bit of an annoyance in the heat of battle. There's the tactical side to consider, sure, but when the action's as fast and furious as it is in AIPD, you'll pretty much want to use them as soon as they're collected. You can unlock the "Automatic" mod later on which does exactly that and once you've gained the option, you're unlikely to choose any other support modification for your duration of your time with the game.
The length of that duration is where AIPD trips up, somewhat. Once you've beaten those 15 waves of enemies – which is no small feat, it has to be said – there isn't really anything else to keep you interested. The three other available game modes are variations of the standard mode, with the only difference being to which modifiers are applied to begin with. You can create and store up to three custom game modes, where you select the modifiers that you want in play at the start of the action, but no matter how you choose to play, it all feels somewhat unsubstantial. Sure, transporter enemies may be decked out with all the bells and whistles in one mode and environmental hazards are all active from the outset in another, but things are absolutely identical aside from that. Co-op play for up to four local players is available and proves to be as over-the-top and fun as you'd expect from throwing three other stick twiddlers into the mix but once again, the game remains the same. You play through the 15 waves, beat the multi-stage boss, and are rewarded with a static screen that says "Victory" instead of "Game Over." On our first attempt on the medium difficulty level, we reached the boss. On the second play, we beat it. As such, we had seen all that the game has to offer in less than half an hour.
There are "Hard" and "Blazing" difficulty levels to be had and these offer a true test of skill (not to mention higher points payouts) but the gamble that the developers have taken on here, is that gamers will be drawn into competing for positions on the leaderboard via multiple playthroughs. That's entirely possible, but they'll likely find that most won't become all that invested, given the lack of variation in the gameplay.
AIPD is a solidly-made twin-stick shooter with some nice ideas. The problem is that it just isn't fleshed out enough. Outside of the shooting action itself, the presentation is lacking to the point of being non-existent and unless you become hooked relatively early on and become determined to beat it on the hardest difficulty or are absolutely dead-set on getting to get to the top of the leaderboards, it isn't going to be on your playlist for long. What's here is great, it's just that there isn't enough of it.