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Space Invaders Extreme (PC) artwork

Space Invaders Extreme (PC) review

"Space Engagers"

Space Invaders Extreme takes on a 30-year-old title, based on the simplest of concepts (don't let the aliens land -- blast them out of the sky!), and manages to be just about the most ideal update to an old, old school game that I've ever played. [DS]
Marc Golding // July 09, 2008

With so many changes to the core formula, Space Invaders Extreme could easily have been a disaster. Why fix what isn't broken, right? However, this new release simply shows how archaic the original has become. While maintaining a pleasing retro flavor, Taito's 30th anniversary reboot provides a compelling update of a classic experience. [PSP]
Jason Venter // June 23, 2008

“Pffft”, thought the Gary of ten years ago (for he was the dismissive sort, not quite yet ground into unfeeling indifference by the tidal wave of DS brain trainers that were about to become his reviewing life), “look at these clowns, waxing enthusiastic about the gaming equivalent of wrapping a fossil up in Christmas lights. There’ll be none of that nostalgic nonsense for me!” With a sneer, he promptly strode off to check his post, find his next review assignment was How to Pass Your Driving Theory Test, and die a little inside.

Well, more fool me. Space Invaders Extreme was a commercial and critical success, blowing handheld owners away with a genius high octane transformation of one of gaming’s coeval and most beloved entries. It was a brilliant celebration of the arcade super-hit, managing against all odds to reinvent itself enough to be current while at the same time staying stringently loyal to its retro foundations. The goal itself remains the same; alien craft patrol the skies and if they manage to make it to the ground, you die. Your only defence is a little artillery cannon that slides around the bottom of the screen trying to shoot them before they get that close.

The original handheld version of Extreme was released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of saving the world from the slowly scrolling alien menace; the PC version held back a further decade so it can throw a new-ish party for the 40th. It does its best to steal the most viable aspects from all the earlier releases to be the very best version yet, but there’s one very noticeable omission; when the game made its way onto Xbox Live, it came complete with a new multiplayer option that seems to have gone missing in the last ten years. I mention it because that might bother some of you. I don’t care at all.

A second player would mess up my combos and disrupt my hunt for a bigger and better points gain. Another player would undoubtedly destroy my chains of consecutively coloured aliens that grant me a temporary weapon upgrade. To get the best out of Space Invaders Extreme is to plan every shot, to plot out the death of every target to maximise your score. Destroy an entire column or row before chipping away at another part of the formation? Delicious bonus points. Hit one of the familiar bonus saucers that zip along the top of the screen? Numerical rewards aplenty! Sometimes blowing up a UFO launches you into a bonus round where you have to shoot at a roulette wheel of invaders, or take out a priority target surrounded by cannon fodder. Winning these scenarios often throws you into Fever Mode, where any weapon upgrade you might have held is changed from overpowered into pure overkill.

Even outside of Fever, the key to chewing up waves of spacecraft is eating plenty of power-ups. Kill off four blue aliens in a row and get the laser, which is short lived, but offers a continuous stream of destruction that will allow you to devour at least a full wave before it diminishes. You could just wipe a screen of enemy craft out, but, use it wisely to destroy same coloured columns and obtain further power-ups to keep your over-the-top assault ticking over. Trying to maintain some order inside the chaos is the key to A ranks and high scores.

Probably the most impressive thing Space Invaders Extreme does is how it makes points rush gaming relevant again. Back before epic narratives, celebrity voice actors and photo-realistic CGI cutscenes were the norm, the only thing games like the original Space Invaders had to spur you on was getting your initials on the high score screen that took pride of place on every arcade cabinet. That gave you local cred; Extreme makes things global, continuously tracking your score and telling you how many hundreds of people are currently better than you. Clever combos, unending destruction chains and successful bonus stage runs all help slowly dial up your points and improve your standing. The best runs earn you A grades; collect a few of those, and you’ll gain access to harder levels where tougher foes and greater rewards await you.

There’s no action that doesn’t affect your score line, and there’s nothing more important than gobbling up points. Plot your way through the alien waves, and you’ll eventually have to do battle with a stage boss, the background of the fight dominated by a huge countdown of just how many bonus points you’re missing out on because you’ve still not killed it yet. It wants to force you into taking risks, and then laugh as you eat an easily avoidable cheap death due to your haste. At the same time, this Space Invaders Extreme is the most forgiving strain yet; previous entries told you that you’d beat all the stages on one credit, or you’d fail to beat them at all! This time around, you can pick up from where you expired, but you forfeit all your points. If you care about ranking, you’ll play the game as it was originally intended. If you just want to chill out, shoot stuff and see all the game has to offer, you’re now catered to.

You should totally stick to the second option, because that means you’ll be some way behind me in the world rankings, and that’s become more important to me than I’d anticipated. Extreme is a game that expects you to return again and again, doing slightly better at each new run, clawing closer to unlocking hidden stages or chipping away at your high score. It’s so ridiculously simple to just play, but remarkably complex to play well. I could have known this ten years ago, but I ignored the praise heaped upon Taito’s excellent reboot. So heed the advice I once ignored; don’t be me. Don’t hang around to see what platform they manage to re-re-release this game on come the 50th anniversary. My money’s on some kind of futuristic home arcade cabinet. That should complete the circle nicely.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 28, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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