Space Invaders Extreme (DS) review
"Each boss battle is pretty clever, but one in particular is especially so: the boss will actually move back and forth along the bottom of the lower screen, while you take up a new position, along the bottom of the top screen. There, you will stand off against reflector aliens, and attempt to time your shots so that they get reflected back your way, slipping past you, hitting the boss below. All this while he shoots up at you as well. Brilliant stuff."
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.
This is truly a case of "everything old is new again." Your cannon and the alien critters look the same, save the expeted cosmetic improvements. Your cannon still slides back and forth along the bottom of the screen, sending laser fire upward at columns and rows of descending invanders whose only thought is to pass your line of scrimmage. You can't convince them to call off their single-minded mission to join your position, so the only option is to wipe them all out. (That's how we've always done it... and it's worked out pretty well so far.)
The invaders have quite a few new tricks up their sleeves though -- 30 years makes for a lot of plotting time -- long-time fans will be pleasantly surprised at what our foes have learned. Some can fire fast-moving bullets your way, some confound you with shields. Some use reflecting shields to send your shots right back at you, and still others explode when shot -- taking friends in formation with them, or else you, if you're unfortunate enough to have had them venture close.
And while 30 years hasn't been sufficient time for the Federation or Earth Defense Force, or whomever to maybe send more than one cannon out to defend the world, it's been plenty long enough to improve the lone cannon we've got. Things have taken a decidedly shooter-esque turn: like-coloured aliens can be shot in succession to uncover power-ups.
The blue gives us a nearly all-powerful beam; red gives us an incendiary gun of sorts; green gives us a spread; black gives us a shield of our own. Naturally, the power-ups last for a limited time only, though we can put a stay on a power-ups use and timer by holding the "L" button, if we want to, say, save the blue beam for a stickier situation a minute or two down the road.
Aside from the more cunning alien forces, and our cannon's new shoot-em-up functionality, the UFO's which pass overhead every so often can now grant access to a bonus round (which makes use of both DS screens) when hit. If you complete the bonus round's challenge (usually of the 'shoot a certain number of aliens in a certain amount of time' variety) you'll be whisked back to the real world for FEVER TIME.
Fever time furnishes your cannon with an almighty power-up which will enable you to cut fat swaths through alien formations and wipe at least two screens clean before it runs out, getting you that much closer to the Boss of that stage, that much faster (and God knows it's just plain fun to wield that much firepower).
Oh, and yes, you read correctly. I said Boss. There are end-of-stage bosses to contend with in this five-stage shooting fix. Like the bonus rounds, the boss encounters will take up both screens, usually with you on the very bottom and a massive invader raining down punishment from the top screen.
Each boss battle is pretty clever, but one in particular is especially so: the boss will actually move back and forth along the bottom of the lower screen, while you take up a new position, along the bottom of the top screen. There, you will stand off against reflector aliens, and attempt to time your shots so that they get reflected back your way, slipping past you, hitting the boss below. All this while he shoots up at you as well. Brilliant stuff.
Although five stages isn't very long, brilliant or not, the game uses a Darius-like 'choose your own path' system of progression. So there's only one stage one, and likewise for two; but there is a 3A and 3B, a 4A, B and C, and five variations on stage 5,w ith 5E being four shades more difficult than 5A. The game also offers an extreme mode with nothing but tough levels -- no branching options here. There's also a multiplayer mode, and a ranking mode if you want to compare your scores with the scores of others.
As if all that weren't enough, the game boasts its own intrinsic rhythm. Techno music isn't just playing in the background -- your shots make music too. Your hits-cum-notes create an accompaniment to the pulsing dance line. Sure we're not playing DDR, but having the steadiness of your kills weave a sonic pattern with background music is more than a nice touch: it's an ingenius addition that improves the quality of the experience as a whole.
If you've got a DS, you simply must play this game. It's a bit short, but it's an addictive, point scorer's game that can be played through back-to-back-to-back without losing steam. Space Invaders Extreme transcends homage paid -- this is a proud addition to a legacy.
Staff review by Marc Golding (July 09, 2008)
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