Space Invaders Extreme Review: Here Come The Little Green Men
“Space Invaders Extreme” for the DS (and to a lesser extent the PSP) was virtually a perfect game. It took the classic game of “Space Invaders,” something that desperately needed to be updated, and changed it so that an entirely new generation of gamers could appreciate it. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it offered a great gaming experience, mixed with a level of nostalgia that very few games released today can accomplish (“Pac-Man C.E.” being the exception). Soon, its sequel, aptly titled “Space Invaders Extreme 2” will be hitting handhelds in the United States, and driving fans mad as they try to put an end to those damn aliens, but first, the original “Extreme” has made its way to the Xbox Live Arcade, offering a similar, but somehow superior experience to its portable predecessor.
In reality, not much has changed between “Extreme”’s release last year on portables, and this year’s XBLA downloadable offering. There’s the very obvious visual upgrade (HD all the way) along with the tweaks in the levels, boss fights, and bonus stages, but, at the heart of the game, it’s still the same. In fact, it’s pretty much the same game it’s always been – the player is tasked with needing to shoot down the invading aliens before they reach the bottom of the screen putting an end to you. It’s a tried and true concept, so it’s a good thing that Taito subscribed to the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality keeping the basic gameplay for this game – making changes only where they would enhance the experience. And what a difference those changes make.
If you missed the original release of “Space Invaders Extreme,” and are only familiar with “Space Invaders” in the “traditional” 1970s sense, then this is going to seem like an entirely different game to you. “Extreme” is more than a name for this game; it describes just about every aspect of the enhanced experience that is the final product.
With every new level you’re in for a twisted and trippy visuals from the mind of Jeff Minter (”Space Giraffe”). While obviously aesthetically improving the game, actually add to the challenge, much in the same way that the backgrounds in “Lumines” or “Bit.Trip Beat” are so vibrant that they seemingly intentionally interfere with the gameplay. It adds an additional level of challenge to each part of the game - something the game isn’t short on anyways.
The original “Space Invaders” wasn’t an easy game by any definition of the word. It was simple, but it wasn’t easy. It was designed to suck down as many quarters as possible, and “Extreme” keeps with the tradition (sans quarters). Even the first few levels will offer a bit of challenge to the most seasoned of “Space Invader” fans, however, once you hit some of the higher levels, you’ll be praying for an extra life. The power-ups do help, but they’re just not enough sometimes, and that’s where the co-op multiplayer comes in.
“Extreme” also includes a unique power up system based on what enemies you kill, and in what order. Each invader is a certain color, and stringing together kills of the same color, or designated patters will score you a weapon upgrade, or even a shot at a bonus stage. If you’d like to score the extremely helpful broadshot, then you’re going to need to take out four blue invaders in a row. Four reds will net you an exploding bombshot. And, if you can score a set in that order (four greens and four reds) then you’ll get a shot at shooting down the bonus stage flying saucer. If you hit that, you get a chance at one of the game’s fast paced bonus stages, which, if you are able to beat, means you’ll go for uber-points in “Fever Time.” The inclusion of this pattern based system makes the player actually think about and analyze what their next shot is going to be, instead of just blindly firing away, which, pretty much, has become a franchise staple.
Included in the Xbox 360 version of the game are both a local, and online multiplayer modes - both competitive and co-op. The co-op mode is great if you’re having problems getting past certain levels, because an extra gun (or two, or three) really helps taking our invaders. The competitive mode forces you to get the highest score to walk away a winner. Unfortunately, due to some Xbox Live connectivity issues, I wasn’t able to take the game online too much, but it is just an extension of the local modes.
“Space Invaders Extreme” was one of the best revivals of a classic video game franchise ever. It takes the original game and updates it to take advantage of many of the technological and gameplay advances of the last 30 years, and it does it well. The game is fun to play, stylistically unique, challenging, and entertaining - everything you need to make a good game. It may not be for everyone, as the left to right, top-down movements might not be “complex” enough for some of today’s gamers, anyone who can appreciate a good game will enjoy “Space Invaders Extreme” (no matter what platform it’s on) and should absolutely give this game a try - if they’re up for the challenge. After the countless iterations of this game Taito has finally stumbled on one that really works.
“Space Invaders Extreme” was released by Taito/Square Enix for the Nintendo DS, Sony PSP on June 17th 2008 and for the Xbox 360 on May 6th 2009. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.