Review: Space Invaders Extreme
Taito’s final solution.
As far as the legends of gaming go, not many names carry as much weight as Space Invaders. Certainly, in the eighties, Space Invaders was almost a byword for gaming for a while. The only downside being that Space Invaders, quite plainly, is shit.
Now, I’m not just frivolously pissing on a classic here. I played an original Space Invaders cab back in the early eighties and just wasn’t fussed at all. The Galaxians machine next to it on the other handâ€¦
So, I’ve never been a fan and that extends to all those tedious sequels and remakes. Especially Space Invaders Revolution DS, possibly the most tedious game I’ve played in the last few years.
As the tacky ‘Extreme’ part of the title suggests, this remake attempts to really push things forward and, to be fair, it actually kind of does.
This starts with the presentation and the Rez/Every Extend Extra-style colour schemes. The game combines the classic original sprites with swirling, pulsating backdrops, which helps make everything feel modern and fresh and actually looks pretty decent as well (you can turn the backdrops down or off if you find them too intrusive).
Of course, the now-mandatory break beats and thumping basslines are present and correct as expected. How much do you like videogame techno? Add or takeaway half a point as applicable.
However, a lick of paint and some bombastic music does not a game make and there isn’t a whole lot you can do with the genre (and they have tried, fruitlessly, time and time again) but finally Taito have realised that it’s not about adding too many gameplay elements, but rather refining the scoring mechanisms so that skill is rewarded and that every level will represent a new challenge rather than just another screen full of intergalactic bastards.
Space Invaders Extreme awards extra points (and power-ups) for comboing aliens of the same colour which adds a fair amount of additional challenge to the game in much the same way that Ikaruga does (although this game doesn’t hate you for playing it quite like that title does).
These power-ups are particularly powerful and very useful for taking out the bad guys but these lasers, spray shots and bombs do make precise shooting nearly impossible. So at this point you are trading survival and progress against scoring potential.
If you really want to score big then you’ll need to clear waves without missing a single shot as this increases your scoring multiplier to a maximum of 5x before giving you the chance to enter ‘Break Mode’ which ups it to 10x for a limited time. Of course, clearing that many waves is no joke and will really separate the men from the boys. I barely qualified as a foetus.
Another way of making decent score is to shoot the flashing UFOs that crab their way along the top of the screen as they unlock bonus stages. These stages usually involve killing a certain number of enemies against a harsh time limit but, if you manage it, will put the game into ‘Fever Mode’ which soups-up your weapons and the points awarded for each kill.
Space Invaders Extreme, in some ways, is similar to the Xbox Live Arcade title Pacman: Championship Edition. Both games give the originals updated graphics and sound and offer similar gameplay in that completing the games isn’t necessarily the hardest thing ever but getting to the top of those leaderboards certainly is.
Bloody hell Taito you’re making me feel old, thirty years old kind of old. Anyway to the game and how fun it is, lots of fun as it turns out. Despite missing some features of previous ‘Invaders games I’d prefer stayed like base shields and cow defence missions (see: Super Space Invaders) the various gameplay evolutions mostly work and encourage you to replay levels for a better score or to beat the different mini games.
The visuals are nice and shiny and never commit the cardinal sin of obscuring the on screen action while the music along with being oddly hypnotic helps you to time your shots with the Rez style drum and bass beats.
Despite the fun to be had here it is extremely shallow and will get boring if played for more than say half an hour making it perfect for a long tea break or quick dump. If you need a fun and simple shooter for your PSP pick this up provided the price is right as this is perfect budget gaming fodder and will no doubt get cast aside in favour of more shitty driving games by the ignorant gaming masses.
Secondary Score: 7/10
There is offline (two PSPs, two copies of the game) multiplayer but nothing online, which is a blow considering the DS version has the option. The versus mode is similar to something like Twinklestar Sprites in that enemies shot down can be sent over to your opponent’s space but it works pretty well for a mode that you’ll never use twice.
So, is it worth picking up if you’re not an obsessive Space Invaders fanboy? Well, yes and no. It plays solidly, looks good and is perfect fodder for pick up and play gaming. Also, it takes a classic formula and actively challenges you to prove yourself. You make think that just because the original is thirty years old your modern gaming techniques are more than a match for a game that just has left, right and fire controls. Well prove it.
On the minus side the price (around £20 sounds fair but is roughly double what the Yanks are paying) niggles a little for a start but the biggest issue is whether or not you think this type of gameplay has any longevity, wellâ€¦ apart from it being thirty years old, but you know what I’m saying right?
It may be classic gameplay but it doesn’t change the fact that Space Invaders isn’t the most exciting game ever and whilst Extreme does a good job of de-cavemanning (yeah fuck off spellchecker, I know what I mean) it, occasionally you still feel that if this was a houseguest it’d wake you up at 3am by spearing your cat and offering its dead body up to whatever God lives inside the television.
A valiant effort, and one that is definitely just the right side of average, but if I want classic gaming on my PSP I think I’ll just fire up Taito Legends or SNK Arcade Classics rather than this.