Space Invaders Extreme

Thirty years after its initial release, the latest incarnation of Space Invaders kind of snuck up on me. As has been the case with some of the best sleeper PSP titles, I caught my first glimpse of it on The 1up Show. It was flashy, it was bright, it was the kind of eye candy you’d get hooked on quickly, the good stuff.

The original Space Invaders from 1978 was pretty simple by todays standards. While the game incorporates almost all of the original elements of the game, there’s so much else going on it can hardly be considered the same game. The enemies still come from the top of the screen and it’s up to you to shoot them all before they reach the bottom of the screen.

Now enemies also come in different colors. Shooting four of the same colored enemy in a row causes a bonus to drop down. There are three weapon bonuses and one shield bonus. Red enemies drop bombs (area of effect), green enemies drop the broad shot (multiple shots simultaneously), blue enemies drop the laser (continuous, kills everything in it touches) and gray enemies drop the shield. Bonuses only last for a limited time.

Shoot eight enemies in a special pattern and a bonus round ship will fly across the top of the screen. Shoot this ship to go into the bonus round. At the start of the round you will be given a goal and a set amount of time to achieve this. Fail and nothing happens. But if you succeed you go into Fever Time and your weapon gets a major boost in firepower. Just like the weapon bonuses the Fever Time bonus is also only active for a limited amount of time. Fever Time is where the bulk of your points will come from and it’s the best way to tear through the waves of enemies.

Besides all this talk about colors and patterns you’re also going to have to deal with enemies that are more aggressive than the original game. Some will be very small and some will be very large. Some will shoot lasers and others will drop bombs. Still others will reflect your shots back to you. And after you’ve fought your way through the relentless waves of enemies you fight the level boss. This is the masterpiece of the game. Bosses take the shape of the original space invader only on a massive scale. The first boss was made up of large pixels that you had to shoot away to reveal their weak point. Later bosses get more complicated, and interesting.

You have the option of three play modes in Space Invaders Extreme. Arcade Mode is the standard mode of play where you shoot your way through six levels. Starting with level two, if you rank high enough on your previous level you will be given the option of playing a more difficult level. In the Stage Mode you can replay the levels you’ve already cleared. In the Vs Mode you can play another player. Vs Mode plays like a cross between Dr. Mario and Space Invaders. As you destroy enemies they go into a sort of queue. Complete a pattern then shoot a special ship and those enemies are dropped onto your challenger’s screen making their life more difficult.

As I said before this game is delicious eye candy. There is the option to turn the animated background off but then you’re just playing a game and aren’t actually in it for an experience. It’s like playing Space Channel 5 without the sound on: it’s not quite the same. And, much like Lumines there is a rhythm to this game but it’s not nearly as overt. It’s just something you notice when you start kicking a lot of ass.

That ass kicking is made possible by a smooth handling cannon and precise controls. I’m speaking for the PSP controls while the DS version has an optional paddle wheel controller (not available in the US) that was designed for Arkanoid DS which they say helps with precision movements but I never felt the need for it. The trickiest part of the game is figuring out the best way to clear a group of enemies accounting for weapon and round bonuses and then actually hitting what you’ve aimed for.

I don’t have anything bad to say about this game. I’ll admit I may have been prejudiced towards it from the start but the only drawback I can find is trying to decipher the rarely encountered Japanese text. If you can wait a week or two though, the game will be on American store shelves thanks to Square-Enix. This is a perfect game for the PSP. Space Invaders has been a beloved time-waster for 30 years and now you can take it with you whenever for when you have time to kill.

One thought on “Space Invaders Extreme

  1. Wow, if you have a DS rumble pack, this game will give you force feedback from the music. (not compatible w/ PSP version =P)

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