Developed by Taito Published by Degica Games Reviewed on Steam (available on Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable)
Space Invaders Extreme is a psychedelic dynamic take on the classic shoot-’em-up. While Space Invaders Extreme has been released on other platforms, this new version of the game reconfigures the user interface for an even more enthralling experience. With its fast paced action, vibrant effects, and varied enemy formations, the game always keeps players on their toes while remaining accessible. Though it loosely follows its predecessors’ simple mechanics, it provides more than enough variation to keep the game fresh and fascinating to players of all skill levels.
The game’s progression follows a fundamentally familiar stage flow. In Arcade Mode, players advance from each stage to the next. In each stage, they must defeat waves of incoming invaders and then defeat a larger boss at the end. Where the game differs from other shoot-’em-ups is its branching path system. While each given Arcade Mode run consists of five stages, the games actually has more playable stages. If players achieve high ranks, they can choose to advance to harder paths, which leads to increased replayability.
Space Invaders Extreme is incredibly accessible. It follows the familiar principle of defeating enemies while dodging their fire. Much like the original game, the player ship can move left and right and fire at enemy waves that appear in the middle of the screen. If players run out of lives in the middle of an Arcade Mode run, they can resume from the same stage or even the same spot where they were defeated. The game therefore allows players to keep playing even if they hit a tough spot.
Naturally, however, Space Invaders Extreme includes additional mechanics to spice up the action. Defeating four of the same enemy color in a row will spawn a power-up. These power-ups temporarily enable abilities such as piercing lasers and explosive shots, which can lead to satisfying enemy clears. If players defeat two consecutive sets of four matching enemies, they can defeat an incoming special UFO to enter a bonus round. These rounds task players to achieve certain goals, and successful completion leads to even more opportunities to score points and trounce enemies in an over-the-top fashion.
While the psychedelic action may initially seem overwhelming, the game contains plenty of depth and endless opportunities for players to rack up high scores and discover point bonuses. Some of the finesse stems from figuring out which enemies to destroy in order to gain power-ups. Part of the challenge also involves utilizing power-ups against different parts of each enemy wave. Players can even holster a power-up in order to conserve it for more important moments. Defeating enemies in specific sequences can lead to more points, and the process is quite organic and worthwhile.
With its entracing audiovisual experience, it can be easy to forget that Space Invaders had humble beginnings. Every shot is accompanied by musical notes that flow with the current electronic track. Taito’s in-house band Zuntata once again provides wonderfully crafted tunes that create a sense of euphoria as players blast waves of enemies. When players perform well, the saturated particle effects are marvelous to behold. Even though the effects sometimes verge on being overboard, the game state is always easy to read with its distinctive enemy design and clear-cut shapes. As a whole, the game excellently treads the line between style and function.
One of the fascinating elements of the Steam version of Space Invaders Extreme is that it is not simply a port of any other version. Compared to the Xbox Live Arcade version, the user interface has thicker fonts and more information on screen. For example, the bottom left of the screen now contains high score tables that compare the player’s current score with those of higher ranked players. Players can also see the music track name as well as the current enemy wave number. The game’s modes have also been renamed and reorganized as well. Furthermore, the Steam iteration is a wholly single player game, but the experience is nonetheless entertaining.
Of course, the game’s replayability hinges upon players’ devotion and taste. A common belief is that shoot-’em-ups can be beaten simply by continuing repeatedly. However, doing so resets the current score. The game rewards persistence and practice given that player performance affects which stages are available. For those less interested in aiming for a high score, the game will still provide brief yet fun blasting experience. Should players complete an Arcade Mode run, they can access an Extra course that features trickier enemy formations.
Space Invaders Extreme’s Steam version is an excellent way to experience the game. The game provides a dynamic take on the Space Invaders lineage that is quite exciting to experience. Even for those who may have played the game previously, the modified user interface is worthwhile, and it is still a blast to play even today. For anyone itching for a quick shoot-’em-up fix or anyone seeking a fun title to play for high scores, Space Invaders Extreme is well worth playing.