“I Am Alive” is a post-apocalyptic survival game set in the fictional, shattered city of Haventon. More than a year prior to the game, the world experienced some type of catastrophe that is referred to only as “The Event.” You take control of the protagonist — an unknown middle-aged man who has returned to Haventon to locate his wife and young daughter, both of whom he had lost contact with prior to “The Event.” Your self-induced mission divides, however, when you rescue a young girl by the name of Mei who had been separated from her mother. Soon, your priority is to get her to safety.
As you move throughout the city, it is important to keep an eye on your health and stamina bar as you play because every action that requires some type of physical exertion — running, climbing, swinging, etc., takes a toll on your stamina. Once you deplete it completely, you enter a crisis mode and have a few seconds to try and make it to a ledge or some sort of solid ground in order to rest. Failure to do so results in losing your grip, which usually leads to death. If you manage to make it to a place where you can breathe, you’ll find your stamina bar’s max capacity has decreased. In order to get it back in original shape, you’ll need to cut into your supplies.
The items scattered in Haventon are few and far between. You’ll soon find yourself hoarding them, for once you use up your supply, you’re done until you happen across another food can or bottle of painkillers. It’s in your best interest to survey the areas you come across, as you can usually find a couple good items stashed behind cars or up on ledges. Your stamina bar is not your only enemy in this game, there are plenty of people who wish you and Mei harm.
In the beginning, you manage to get your hands on a gun that has no bullets. However, many of the hostile men you come across don’t realize that, and your empty weapon can be an intimidation tool. By simply pointing your gun, men can surrender or follow your demands, which can line them up for a good old-fashioned push off a cliff or kick into a fire pit. There are men and women in the game who are also defending their home turf — backing away from their camps can usually diffuse the growing situation.
Your gun is not your only weapon — you also have your trusty machete, which can be used for a melee attack. As the story progresses you can get your hands on a bow and single reusable arrow — you have to pick it up off the bodies of your enemies to get it back — and, if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can happen across a shotgun.
There are non-hostile people in Haventon who are hurting or have some type of craving and can use your help. This is the morality factor of the game — you only have a limited amount of supplies, but would you be kind enough to help a man who had his arm crushed by giving him your last first aid pack or giving another person two bottles of highly coveted pain killers? Sometimes all you get is a thank you, maybe even a small gift. But by helping out these victims, you are given some hints as to what occurred during and after “The Event,” and most importantly, you are given a “retry.” If you happen to die at some point within the game, you are given a chance to use one of your retries, which usually drops you back to just before you engaged the hostiles. Helping a victim or coming across a retry in the level increases your retry count. Using them all, however, results in you being re-spawned back at your last save point. There is no manual saving in this game, save points are usually found at the beginning of the mission or, if it is particularly long, somewhere midway.
“I Am Alive” does have its positive and negative aspects. The atmosphere of the game is fitting — trash and bodies litter the ground, abandon cars decorate the streets of the city, earthquakes have caused many great divides, and the aftershocks that you feel occasionally lead to places that were formerly unreachable. In the emergency shelters, you can find signs begging for help, food or water and as you explore, you can come across spray-painted warnings directed toward looters. The color palette has a predominantly sepia overtone, highlighting the fact that this earth is now a very bleak place, but the lack of color — although intentional — is also boring.
My biggest complaint with the game regards the controls — they are buggy and occasionally very frustrating. Although the world is a decent size, it becomes apparent how very bland it is — there is no real interaction. Then, there’s the fact that, at the end of the game, there isn’t any resolution to the unknown man’s storyline — without giving too much away, you are just left to wonder. Finally, there are some small quirks that a stickler like myself was irritated by — one of which is the proof-reading that apparently did not occur on the subtitles. Poor grammar, letters that weren’t capitalized and missing words are noticeable, but in all honesty they really don’t affect the game.
Overall, I would recommend at least checking it out. In a market where post-apocalyptic shooters are doing well, it’s interesting to find a game that shies away from the usual fantasy and carnage elements and instead, focuses more on a more realistic approach. It’s not a long game; you could probably beat it in a couple of hours and it’s not expensive. It has its downsides and frustrations, but it was an entertaining experience and I don’t regret the purchase.
Samantha Tighe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.