Space Invaders is heralded as one of the first, if not the first, shoot ‘em up every created. The “invader” could possibly be argued as the most well-known game icon right up there with the pong paddle.
Taito has given Space Invaders an “extreme makeover”, and has had success on the DS and PSP platforms. Now, we are given an XBLA version, with is essentially a remake of the PSP iteration, with online play and updated graphics. So how does it measure up to the original, and modern shoot ‘em ups as a whole? Read on to find out.
Game companies have been tapping the XBLA and PSN oilfield for years when they realized “we can repackage old games and resell them”. The trick to making an actual worthwhile re-hash title is to take an old game, and make it “feel new”, to warrant a purchase. While a large amount of Xbox Live Arcade games are just straight ports, with little to no extra features, I assure you, Space Invaders Extreme couldn’t be more different than its predecessor.
The game is able to keep you constantly interested with a massive flux of exciting sounds and vibrant visuals, ensuring that you won’t die of the “boredom disease” that plagues so many retro games. Also, instead of the simple “kill or be killed” scheme found in the original, you are tasked with different advance strategies in order to upgrade your weapons, and access bonus levels.
For example, if you kill 4 enemies of the same shape and color in succession, you’ll get a power-up that goes along with that color enemy. Green enemies give you a spread shot, red ones give you an AOE bomb, blue combos net you a stream laser, and grey, a bullet shield. At any time, you can “put a powerup away”, by holding the left or right bumper, that way you can save it for tougher enemies. This creates an incredibly exciting tension, because you’re always trying to nab extra powerups, and constantly wondering when to utilize them. Surprisingly, there’s also a “level up” mechanic that’s fueled by the amount of enemies you kill.
The invaders have also been updated. No longer will you simply fight the “flailing arm” aliens over and over; there are a ton of extra baddies to eradicate, bosses to fight at the end of each level, and constant bonus stages and breaks in the action to keep it exciting.
After creating an 8-pattern combo, a bonus UFO will fly across the top of the screen. If you shoot it, you’ll be whisked away into a different bonus stage that is dependant on your combo color. The objective of these is always “kill x number of enemies in a certain time period”, but they all feel different in some way. If you fail, you’re just sent on your way back to the level, but if you succeed, you’ll get an “extreme” power spread shot for 20 seconds, allowing you to just wreck shop.
Visually, Space Invaders Extreme is striking. The enemy models are all nostalgically sprite-based, while the environments are incredibly modern. I was really surprised how trippy and vibrantly colored the nebulous levels could be without being too overbearing: you can thank Llamasoft’s Jeff Minter for that. The audio also matches the stunning visual work, featuring upbeat drum and bass electronica, and explosion cued instrumentals. Every time you blow up and enemy, the game will emit a percussion sound of some sort, an element that is very reminiscent of Sega’s Rez.
The only real let-down Space Invaders Extreme has is the short length, given its $10 price tag. While there are different variations of levels 3-5 you can access with higher scores, there are still technically only 5 different levels. The bosses at the end also feel fairly similar, and one is just a giant version of an enemy you fight in a normal level.
If you have any friends to play with, however, SIE will garner your interest for months to come. When I think of versus shoot ‘em ups, (dual ‘em ups) really, only Twinkle Star Sprites (which wasn’t even released in America) comes to mind. Space Invaders Extreme goes all out, and allows four player versus and co-op play locally, and additionally, score attack and survivor online. All of the modes feel very different, and should scratch both your competitive and friendly itches. For those who care, there are also online leaderboards.
Co-op is incredibly fun, and just “feels right”. Score attack is an adrenaline filled rush of a mode that requires you to kill as many invaders as possible before your opponents; combine the fact that you should be making combos at the same time, and you have yourself an incredibly addicting and intense game mode.
Space Invaders Extreme is right up there with Bionic Commando: Rearmed when it comes to redoing a classic right, while simultaneously paying homage to it. It’s rare to see online play in many recent Xbox Live Arcade games, so it’s nice to see Taito sticking to their guns and including it in this version. This game is sure to win over gamers whether they’re fans of Space Invaders, or not.
Trippy visuals, vibrant colors, and retro enemies all meld together in a pleasing package.
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It's really hard to go wrong here. You can move from side to side, and shoot.
Unless you loathe electronica, you will dig this soundtrack and the accompanying sounds.
Online and local modes are a blast, but it's a bit on the short side. Also, there were rumors that the XBLA version would include the original Space Invaders, but it's nowhere to be found.
If you enjoy the original, it's a must-buy. If you don't have any friends to play with, however, you might want to try the demo.