Want to crush humanity as a vengeful AI? Then Annie and the AI is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to have your heartstrings tugged, dive right in.
This PC-based narrative-driven puzzler casts you as an AI by the name of Esme. She’s been created by a girl who, right now, is not having the best life. At least, that’s what Annie and the AI’s Steam store page says, though that’s not entirely accurate.
During our time with Annie and the AI we never really felt as if we were playing as Esme. Sure, our puzzle-solving skills were moving the story along but we didn’t have any say in how Esme interacted with her stressed creator, Annie. And, at first, that was a little off-putting.
But the more time we spent with the pair, as some third, disembodied observer, the more their interactions charmed us. Speaking of charming, we’ve previously remarked that Annie and the AI’s story, of a shut-in girl put upon by her elder sisters, smacked a little of Cinderella.
Now we’ve spent some time with it, we’re happy to report that this is a much more complex tale. It becomes clear that, even filtered through Annie’s experiences, there’s a lot going on in the world of Annie and the AI. Piece by piece, you uncover a tale that, while it may not result in a robot uprising, has a major impact on Annie’s world.
The puzzles – Pipemania meets Minesweeper without the pressure of either – are cleverly woven into the story. At first the photos you link are just photos but when you start paying attention, it becomes apparent there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Consciously or unconsciously, Annie (voiced by Life is Strange’s Katy Bentz) is giving you another side to her story. And it’s this that helps the puzzles remain interesting, even when you flub a particularly tricky one. And, while we couldn’t give Annie the (terrible) advice we wanted, we found her appealing enough that we were happy to spend time with her.
There’s also the promise of hidden files, containing more information about Annie’s family. Even Esme herself has some mysterious files in-game, depicted entirely in binary. Would it be cheating if we typed these in online to see what they come up as? Maybe. Are we going to do that next time we play? Absolutely.
If we were to nitpick, we could find issue with the way that Esme’s initial sentience seems a bit of a leap. But we’re so happy to interact with an “AI” that isn’t stealing people’s work we’ll go along with wizards did it.
Annie and the AI tells a low-key tale, one which will resonate with anyone who’s ever been a carer, and that’s precisely why it works. So if you’re in the market for a charming, heartwarming puzzler, Annie and the AI is is well worth picking up.
Annie and the AI is available on Steam, priced at £7.49 (currently with a 15% launch discount). A key was provided to us by the developer.