Aliens... why does it have to be aliens?!
The retro revival scene is doing its best to beat out World War II shooters as something "everyone's doing since forever" in games. Pac-Man, Arkanoid, Lode Runner, Galaga Legions - all of them got a face lift in some way or the other, so why not the grand daddy of them all, Space Invaders?
[image1]Space Invaders Extreme isn't exactly a new game - it debuted last year on portable systems, namely the DS and PSP, to very positive reviews. This XBLA version is a mix of those two, adding in its own flavor to the dish, with online multiplayer and of course, Achievements. Space Invaders Extreme retains the oncoming-waves style of play from the original arcade game and twists it up by throwing in a series of quirks, like enemy ships turning sideways to avoid shots and pixel-constructed bosses between levels. Everything is tied to a combo system that racks up the score as continuous ships are shot down while you remain unscathed.
The big pros about playing Space Invaders Extreme on XBLA is getting to escape the confines of a portable screen, and in terms of visuals, it delivers. While over-simplistic in elemental design, like enemy ships and effects, it more than makes up for it in quantity and on-screen mayhem. Sometimes the effects can be too much, but more often than not, the combination of ships moving in waves like sound modulations simply "clicks", and it's at those times that the game shines. Literally. It gets so colorful and psychedelic it might seem like your head had been introduced to a bat... violently. Adding to the effect, the controller vibrates to the rhythm on screen, so you might even feel a bit shellshocked.
[image2]Mainly, what might turn people off from this game is the absurd amount of good shoot 'em ups already on Xbox Live Arcade. While the portables did not have much support from the genre, Xbox Live Arcade has bullets piled up to its eyebrows. This isn't to say Space Invaders Extreme does not have any redeeming values, and Taito should be commended for trying to expand the game's audience, but in the end, it feels like a perfectly shaped rock being thrown into a quarry. It's a beautiful rock, but among other rocks, it's still a rock, so how can we tell them apart?
The Xbox Live version does bring something unique to the table for us to dabble with - online play. Competitive modes like Versus, where four players compete against each other for the best score, and a co-op mode that turns the single player mode into a two-player mission. The plaguing problem with Live Arcade games is finding a match online, and Space Invaders, at times, seems to suffer from that, in addition to how laggy it gets online.
We can stop and wonder how Space Invaders Extreme will shape up against heavy hitters in XBLA like Geometry Wars, but kudos has to be given to Taito for trying to spice up one of their oldest franchises. While not being the first ever re-imagining of Space Invaders, Space Invaders Extreme is certainly the most striking, both visually and mechanically. It plays mostly like past versions, and the additions made in terms of online only make this 10 dollar (800 Microsoft Points) game more enticing to buy, considering how much the DS and PSP iterations cost.