Review: Scrolling in Space Invaders? That's one of the signs of the apocalypse, isn't it?
Aside from everyone's favorite circular yellow man with a pizza slice-shaped mouth, the pixelated Space Invaders alien is probably the most iconic image from gaming's earliest days. In the last few years, Taito, the game's the publisher, has done a lot to make the franchise more relevant to modern audiences. There have been a handful of new Space Invaders games on the DS and PSP. There was Space Invaders Get Even
, which allowed players to play as the aliens for the first time. And there's Space Invaders: Infinity Gene
, which introduces scrolling to the series.
Infinity Gene begins simply enough, with the player tethered to the bottom of the screen firing up at the invaders from space. But after enough points have been won, the game "evolves" through the whole history of scrolling shooters. It begins with UFOs dropping power-ups that increase your firepower. Soon enough, players will be able to pilot new ships armed with a variety of new (and awesome) weapons. Eventually, the player will take the fight to the invaders themselves by breaking free from the bottom of the screen.
While the idea of an overhead scrolling shooter is not a revolution in terms of the entire industry, it is an evolution for the Space Invaders series. This new play style results in one of the best space shooters I've played in a long time. The invaders are relentless, and making the most of the new weapons and abilities will have Space Invaders veterans entranced in front of their TVs for a long time.
This hypnotic effect is further enhanced by the game's visual presentation. Swirling colors form the background on top of environments made of line drawings. The Invaders themselves are also created using pixels and simple lines. Late in the game, Infinity Gene evolves further and polygonal ships will populate wireframe environments. While based on retro graphical styles, the presentation feels very modern. The pulsating techno music soundtrack helps quite a bit in that regard.
Sadly, while the presentation is top notch, Infinity Gene runs out of steam when it makes the evolutionary leap to 3D graphics. The backgrounds become infinitely harder to navigate and environments that were previously background decoration now become instant-death obstacles. The 3D sections never really work the way the 2D scenes do as the game loses its Space Invaders vibe. But for 24 of the game's 30 stages, it's a work of art.
While 1/5 of the main game is a bit of a bust, Infinity Gene also includes 30 Bonus Stages, 99 Challenge levels (which are randomly generated) and a Music Mode that attempts to sync the invasion to your MP3 collection (eat your heart out Pink Floyd). There is a ton of content here and it'll keep most gamers playing well into the night, attempting to take down just one more stage and participating in the game's awesome leaderboards. The leaderboards are actually so awesome that the game includes a counter on the screen at all times to show where you stand amongst the best Infinity Gene players in the world. Every game should have this feature.