Review: Artificial Superintelligence26 Jun 2017 0
Review: Artificial Superintelligence
Released 16 May 2017
We here at Pocket Tactics are big fan of Reigns. We gave it four stars in our original review and earned the lofty title ‘Interactive Fiction Game of the year’ in our end of the year awards. It’s not hard to see why: taking the left/right swiping mechanic of Tinder (of all things), with a medieval/fantasy setting made for an entirely new approach to narrative-based gaming. It’s taken a while but we have a new game that uses the core mechanic of Reigns dressed up in a new setting.
Artificial Superintelligence comes to us from Brian Mueller, an indie developer from Philadelphia, USA. Though the game is in some context part of a larger network called ‘CARROT’ – an almost sentient AI that at some point was fed through all four seasons of Blackadder. There are six apps currently available to download on the app store, all serving different functions from telling you about the weather to being a judgemental weight tracker. Artificial Superintelligence serves as a prequel of sorts, as you take the role of a start-up developer looking to create the most advanced AI ever, and the many, many different scenarios faced along the way. Instead of taking your place at the head of the throne attempting to lead your kingdom, the game goes headfirst into the multiverse theory, with each new play through taking place in alternative universe, with you trying to undo the mistake that led to your new sentient AI “accidentally” wiping out the planet.
Pretty much every review of the game has made mention of Reigns, and it is difficult not to – it matches the gameplay style almost to a fault. The swiping tool sits to the bottom of the screen in the center, holding it over either the left or right side will provide you with a small piece of dialogue that either impacts one or more of the meters above, or will just move the narrative along. Up top you’ll find four meters: Employees, Investors, Government, Internet. Your actions will influence which direction the meters go. Remember: for every action there is a reaction. This is where the crux of the game lies, as tipping the meter to the edge in either direction is effectively game over.
What keeps Artificial Superintelligence ticking is the numerous scenarios at hand dependent on the actions you take. Unfortunately, it’s this most crucial part of the game where it falters. In Reigns, you’re frequently flung through interesting and surreal narrative journeys – that’s never really the case here, you’re just a developer sitting in your office, pinging messages back and forth between co-workers, the government, and occasional internet troll. The game does throw the occasional swerve; such as starting you off on an uninhabitable planet and forcing a quick game over, but it never takes you on a journey that you can get invested in – which is surprising, considering the average length of a single universe arch will typically play out longer than a single reign in er… Reigns.
Another issue is how often you’re not exactly sure what an effect a choice will make. The simple red/green visual cue from Reigns is replaced with two slots for each meter that potentially light up when previewing an answer – but the rhyme or reason for which direction the meter goes in rarely feels consistent.
The humour feels very forced. The game is full of meme and pop culture references, but the punch line is the inclusion of the reference, instead of working it into a joke. I can appreciate the sheer amount of them, but they never achieved anything past a wry smile from me. The disappointment comes from how well the short-snappy sarcastic tone of the CARROT app is turned into uninspired meme-referenced cracks that never deliver. With this removed, the game just doesn’t have much else to offer.
The presentation is basic, though characters will respond when touched, so it does add something new. But the whole presentation on top of the gameplay feels lacking, and I found myself hammering left or right with the hope I’d stumble upon a new scenario, as everything in between was not all that interesting.
I do appreciate the overarching concept of CARROT - that fits somewhere between HAL 9000 and Skynet - and Mueller’s attempt to weave a backstory for his range of apps is novel and noteworthy. I can also appreciate that one person’s sense of humour will differ wildly to someone else’s, so if you were a fan of how Reigns plays, and the direction of the humor described sounds appealing to you, by all means give it a look.
It’s not a terrible game by any means, but it is uninspired. Made all the more frustrating by the cleverness of the CARROT apps that preceded it.