by Joseph Barron
reviewed on X360
Feels Just Like it Should
Originally released on the PSP and DS in 2008 to mark the 30th anniversary of the arcade classic, Space Invaders Extreme quickly found its niche as a superb pick-up-and-play action title. Taito has breathed new life into the game this year by hiring emulation specialists Backbone Entertainment to give it a fresh coat of HD paint for Xbox Live Arcade.
While appearing quite similar to games such as Rex HD and Geometry Wars at first glance, Space Invaders stands out by mixing beautiful HD special effects with the original pixellated sprites that gave the legendary arcade game its distinctive visuals. It works beautifully, but you'll need to see it in motion on an HD screen to really appreciate the effort that's gone into beefing up the PSP version's graphics. My only complaint with regards to the graphics was that I found the sheer amount of effects happening on screen to be a little overwhelming at times, giving me worse eyestrain than even the most intense moments of Geometry Wars.
Taito has also spruced up the sound for this remake by mixing old and new, combining classic explosion sounds with modern techno music and effects. Unfortunately, most of the weapon sounds effects are ear-wrenchingly awful, particularly the default single-shot laser. Mercifully, you can turn the sound effects off, but the game's trademark intensity just isn't the same without them.
Central to the gameplay is the tried and tested idea of moving your ship on a horizontal plane while enemies scroll down the screen towards you, moving from side to side and increasing with speed as they come. Despite this you will quickly realize that Extreme differentiates itself from the classic by more than just graphics and sound.
You Give Me Fever
The biggest gameplay addition is Fever. If you manage to shoot one of the flashing UFOs that dart across the top of the screen, the main gameplay stops and you are transported to a new screen where you will play a short minigame. These minigames have challenges such as "kill x number of enemies in the time limit" or "destroy x number of these enemies in a row." If you succeed, the game reverts to the main gameplay and activates Fever time, an intense, time-limited highscore joyride. The background warps into a psychedelic vortex, and your ship becomes massively powered up. Finding the best way to exploit Fever time is key to climbing the ranks of the online leaderboards.
The other major addition to the Space Invaders formula is the weapons. Killing a certain number of enemies of the same color in a row drops a colored square. If you manage to catch the square, you get a special weapon. While it only lasts for a short while, it is much more powerful than your standard shot, and is essential to surviving later levels. The type of weapon you receive corresponds to the color of the square, with blue giving you a gigantic laser, green granting a broad laser shot, red offering a bomb, and grey dropping a shield. The risk versus reward of aiming for specific enemies to get power-ups really changes the way you approach the gameplay because enemies are no longer just to be blasted away as quick as possible. You'll need to approach them tactically for higher scores.
Extreme also adds a few multiplayer modes to round out the package. There's 4 player co-op for the game's main Arcade mode, a survival mode (last player standing on a given level wins) and score attack (player with the highest score at the end of a level wins). They're fine additions for the most part, but the game can suffer from some input lag in online matches. You'll often die because your ship didn't respond as fast as it would have in single player. The 4 player modes can also become frustrating when the screen becomes so busy that you can't tell your ship apart from your friend's.
Drop Down, Increase Speed, Change Direction
Overall this is another terrific XBLA update of a classic from yesteryear. Anyone with a fond memory of Space Invaders or a love for shooters should definitely pick this up at its 800 MSP ($10) price tag. However, if you already own a previous version of Extreme, be aware that there is little in the way of new content other than the revamped graphics.
No Pros and Cons at this time