Review: Space Invaders Extreme

SIE_US_front.jpg If Space Invaders and Lumines ever hooked up for a sloppy one night stand without contraceptive, Space Invaders Extreme is the gaming lovechild they’d produce. That’s not a bad thing either. I actually mean that in the most positive way possible.

Space Invaders Extreme is a rare example of a retro arcade game being remade in such a way that it appeals to both older gamers who grew up playing it in arcades or on the Atari 2600 and the new age of younger, hipper gamers who need more than simplistic pixels and bleepy-bloopy audio to grab their attention.

In general, the game plays like classic Space Invaders. You move a tiny spaceship across the bottom of the screen and fire up at downward scrolling lines of alien invaders in order to prevent them from reaching the bottom.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well it’s not. This is one difficult game, now more than ever thanks to a wide array of twists that jazz up the traditional Space Invaders experience into something more “extreme.” Now there are boss battles, weapon power-ups, mid-stage bonus rounds, and more diverse and challenging enemy types to deal with. All that may sound like it takes the classic gameplay too far away from what it used to be, but trust me, it all blends in perfectly without detracting from the original arcade game’s core values.

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One part of the game that certainly doesn’t merely blend in is its presentation. The game retains the base 2D, pixelated look and familiar aural tones of the old days, only now it’s all been remixed with a heavy dose of Lumines-esque inspirations. Trippy, psychedelic visualizers populate the stage backgrounds (if they are too trippy for you, there is an option to turn them off) and the action plays out to high-energy techno tunes. The gameplay and background music are synced together too, meaning your actions are accompanied by various tones and beats that add to the existing music. It has no influence on the gameplay, but it’s a neat addition nonetheless.

By now I hope you are all ready to rush out and buy a copy, but there’s one last topic I need to touch on. Space Invaders Extreme is available for both the DS and PSP, and while the base mode and gameplay content is the same, there are a number of significant differences to take into account in deciding which version to get.

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If multiplayer is a vital component in your gaming lifestyle, you’ll want to get the DS version. Oddly, the DS version features a more robust lineup of multiplayer options. Both versions share local ad hoc two-player, but the DS also provides game sharing, high score uploading and a full online multiplayer mode for going head to head against other Space Invaders fans across the globe. The online play does have some lag and connectivity problems, but when it’s running full speed it’s a blast.

While the PSP version doesn’t have the online play, the presentation definitely comes out on top with crisper pixels, flashier effects and higher-end audio quality. So if those elements are more important to you, go with the PSP.

But ultimately it doesn’t really matter which you decide to go with, because both versions are pure fun. Regardless of platform, Space Invaders Extreme is the best portable shooter on the market, period.

[Update] Whoops! Forgot to mention in the platform comparison that the DS version also supports the rumble pak accessory, and puts it to use nicely.

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Pros:
+ Classic Space Invaders gameplay expanded with a bunch of clever new twists
+ Remixed graphics and audio look and sound great, particularly on PSP
+ Fun multiplayer, especially online with the DS version
+ Wallet-friendly $20 price

Cons:
– PSP version lacks online play
– DS version’s online play suffers from lag and other performance issues at times

Game Info:
Platform: DS and PSP, both versions reviewed
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Taito
Release Date: 6/17/08
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Players: 1-2; DS local and online, PSP ad hoc only
Source: Review copies provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!