I Am An Insane Rogue AI
The world is my oyster. Oysters are delicious.
That just goes to show you how crazy you are as the protagonist of the truth-in-advertising-ly named puzzle game I Am An Insane Rogue AI by Nerdook. I mean, put aside the fact that oysters look like the flu and I don't understand how people eat them; that's just a matter of opinion. But we're talking about a sentient operating system here. It cannot eat. It has no mouth to water. See? Irrational to the point of madness.
Oh, there's also the part where it's trying to take over the world and probably kill everyone. That may be part of the "insane" label too.
The game plays a little like a stealth game, only instead of playing as an individual sneaking around a facility hacking into machines and avoiding detection of your devious deeds, you're the facility and you're hacking yourself. You do this by clicking on various parts of the facility to interact with them. At the beginning of the game, you can turn lights off to scare workers into running, hack droids into attacking people, lock and unlock doors, and of course hack machines and eventually the mainframe yourself. Some kinds of humans (like scientists) can stop hacks in progress, so it's important to kill them or at least herd them away from the machines while breaking in. Hacking the mainframe, however, occurs instantly. Other kinds of humans can fix things you've futzed with or even use weapons. Every action you take costs cycles, and you have a limited number of processing cycles per level to take it over.
Once you've taken a facility over, you'll receive cash for upgrades, with bonuses for not killing people and for having cycles leftover. You can use that cash to increase your starting bank of cycles, improve your hacking speed, buy tools to hurt the humans, and more. As you upgrade, the levels will get tougher, with new kinds of obstacles (and potential assets) such as repairmen (who can open locked doors), tougher bots, and gun turrets. There is also a combo system, which is nowhere mentioned in the tutorial or instructions and is mentioned only obliquely elsewhere, so you'd be forgiven for never noticing it. Basically, you get a small amount of cash for everything you hack, and if you hack things in quick succession, a meter fills up in the top right corner, up to a 10 multiplier.
Analysis: Nerdook is always coming up with these ideas for games that manage to be completely original and yet totally obvious at the same time. "Why didn't I think of that?" is pretty much a given, and anyone who's played Portal or watched 2001: A Space Odyssey should have recognized long ago the fun potential of playing as the snarky disembodied voice who is afraid he can't do that, Dave.
There is a certain amount of gameplay and story segregation here. There's the same song one could sing about so many games with unexplained upgrade mechanics, with the verse for this game being, "When a facility is taken over, who (or what) is evaluating the AI's performance and rewarding it with cash, and how does the AI spend that cash to upgrade itself?" The MST3K "it's just a show, relax" mantra can help with that one. More troubling is the way that pacifist completions pay so much more than violent completions. From a purely gameplay perspective, that makes perfect sense: pacifist completions are much, much harder, so it makes sense that they would pay more. But it goes directly against the AI's personality (as displayed in the AI's between level quips and ultimate goal) for it to be striving to avoid killing humans. It wouldn't have taken much rewriting to reconcile the two... instead of wanting to destroy humans, the AI could want instead to keep them as some kind of sick toys or pets. This would preserve all its insanity and menace while still giving you a storyline reason to keep as many humans alive as possible.
The game is accessible to many different levels of ability. It is nearly always possible to brute force your way through a level. The tricky part is strategizing the best way of taking machines over without killing humans. You can buy upgrades with lots of inventive ways of hurting humans, like making dead humans turn into zombies (no, really), but your best bets for nonlethal herding are the same in the end-game as in the beginning: flick lights off and lock doors. So to end the later levels with no fatalities takes keen observation, planning, flexibility and patience.
So fire up this game and exercise those pathetic human brain cells. Not that it'll make a difference when Google achieves sentience. In fact, it'll probably go through its records and eliminate players of this game first. So that's the risk you take. I think it's worth it.