Platform: iPhone & iPad
Reigns receives an AI-enhanced challenger to its throne
Update! We initially reviewed Artificial Superintelligence in 2017, and since then it’s only received a single update at the end of 2019. That was only for device compatibility and bug squashing, but we thought we’d check back in and see if it still holds up a couple of years on.
How does it play today? Artificial Superintelligence’s clean, stylised 2D artwork hasn’t aged a jot, and it fills out nicely to the stretched aspect ratio of modern iPhones. It still plays well too, with the whole Tinder-meets-multiple-choice-adventure thing continuing to feel quite fresh. That said, we have seen the Reigns format refined through two sequels since this game’s release – check out Reigns: Her Majesty in particular. Grailr’s first game definitely isn’t the best example of its format, then, but it’s still fun (and funny).
Revised rating: Same as before. ★★★★
Our original review, written in June 2017, is presented in its entirety below.
Artificial Superintelligence is the first ever game from the developer of the cheeky-but-useful CARROT apps, but it feels perfectly of a piece.
Where those apps utilized a comically sassy AI to inform you of the latest weather forecast or help you count the calories, Artificial Superintelligence tasks you with guiding said AI towards the singularity.
As head of a fictional tech startup, you’ll achieve this (or more likely fail to achieve this) by making a series of binary narrative choices. Flick a virtual slider left to hire that obnoxious programmer or right to send them packing, for example.
If that mechanic sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the way in which you approve or reject potential dates in Tinder. However, far more of a direct influence is the iOS game Reigns, in which you make decisions as a hapless monarch in order to maintain happiness in your kingdom.
Just as with this earlier effort, Artificial Superintelligence is essentially about keeping four factions – this time Employees, Investors, Government and Internet – in check. Different narrative choices will affect these factions in different ways, and will lead you along a different path with as many as 52 potential outcomes.
You can preview which factions will be affected through each of your choices by holding left or right on the slider without releasing, but it’s up to you to ascertain whether the effect will be a positive or negative one.
It’s here that Artificial Superintelligence falls a little short. The choices offered to you are often too vague, offering little if any clue as to what the potential outcome may be. Sometimes the two choices don’t appear to offer a different outcome at all, seemingly sacrificing meaningful choice for comedic effect.
However, on that front, there’s plenty to like here. Grailr’s sense of humour has always been at the heart of its apps, and this carries through into Artificial Superintelligence.
The game’s nonsensical story is full of pop culture references, ironic twists of fate, and silly mathematical jokes. Admittedly the hit rate isn’t all that high, but the sheer weigh of gags is such that you’ll only ever be a few moments away from a smile – if not quite uproarious laughter.
Visually, Artificial Superintelligence is cartoonishly appealing without ever really distinguishing itself. Rather than the memorably stylish portraits of Reigns, the game tells its tale(s) over a fixed view of your little startup office.
There are constant incidental animations that reflect the choices you make, such as the man in black who walks through when government interest is unusually high, or the burning city you can see from the window whenever a crisis is caused.
You’ll need to make the effort to slow down your progress and drink all the little details in, though, which runs somewhat counter to the game’s breezy pace.
It’s all part of a game that fundamentally achieves its main goal of entertaining and amusing you with its zany choose-your-own-adventure trappings, but that falls a little short on the kind of attention to detail that’s required to make such a narrative-based game feel truly special.