Review: Increase speed, drop down, and reverse direction!
With the advent of the Xbox Live Arcade and other console download services, retro-tinged games have gotten quite a boost in the last couple of years. "Remixed" versions of old favorites abound such as Pac-Man: Championship Edition
, Gradius ReBirth
and now Space Invaders Extreme
Space Invaders Extreme was first released on the DS and PSP in honor of the franchise's 30th anniversary. This version was met with some decent success (and a few Game of the Year honors), so it's no surprise to see it pop up on the XBLA a few weeks ago. Like last year's handheld versions, the XBLA version of Space Invaders Extreme places the player in the cockpit of a laser cannon that can slide back and forth across the bottom of the screen shooting at invaders above them. The invaders swoop back and forth and they get nearer and nearer to the player, or as Futurama famously put it, "Increase speed, drop down, and reverse direction!"
However, that's not all there is to the game with Space Invaders Extreme.
Now, the invaders can shoot back with a huge variety of weapons including missiles, lasers and firebombs. Others go on a kamikaze run after being hit once. Still others split apart into multiple invaders. There are even boss invaders that dwarf the run-of-the-mill troops, almost filling the screen. Thankfully, the player is given some advanced weaponry as well. Shooting down four invaders of the same color will release a trio of powerups including a giant laser, a super bomb and a six missile barrage known as the Broadshot.
This arsenal of weapons will be put to use racking up huge scores through a variety of bonus modes. This includes increasing the Score Rate by chaining invader kills together quickly (which can eventually cumulate in a 10x scoring spree known as "Break"). The other major way to send your score into the stratosphere is by blasting the "Round" UFO. Shooting a flashing UFO that appears periodically pauses the action and sends the game into a minigame requiring the player to shoot a certain number of Invaders in a short period of time. Completing the objective will trigger Fever Time, a trippy mode where the player is given a huge gun and an absolutely ridiculous score multiplier.
The game also attempts to mix it up by including a few multiplayer modes. In Co-Op Mode, up to four players can take on the Invaders together. In Score Attack, players compete on the same screen for the higher score. And in Survivor, players compete on separate screens to see who can last the longest. Each mode is pretty entertaining (Score Attack most of all), but the online pool of players is so shallow (read: non-existent) that joining an online game will be quite the chore.
Other than that, the game is Space Invaders through and through. Moving your ship and shooting at the Invaders will feel slow at times. But it will also feel exhilarating when the screen is full of moonmen and each shot scores a hit. And the pixilated Invader shapes never feel out of place among the techno music and the colorful backgrounds created by Jeff Minter. Memory Lane may look a little more colorful than it did in the late 70s/early 80s, but it's definitely a familiar trip.