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Boy the retro craze is surely back folks and with the release of a 3D version of the grand daddy of videogame shooters, Space Invaders, it's official - retro is in baby, yeah!
I might be dating myself here but I can still remember sneaking into a local pub (underage of course) and getting my first look at a tabletop model of Space Invaders. The synergy of in sync motion and the steady thumping beat were hypnotizing to me. I would stand there watching and waiting patiently for my turn at the game while studying the invader's movements so that I would be ready when I got my chance.
Like the majority of ancient videogames, Space Invaders featured very little flash in fact, the original game was in glorious blank & white (bleh) but it was steeped in addictive gameplay. The gameplay was simplicity itself - shoot down rows of ever descending aliens with your ground mounted laser tank. Movement consisted of left or right sliding for your laser and the descending aliens. That was it no background animations, no 3D movement, nada. Oh, there was the occasionally space ship that would fly by at the top of the screen every so often. Shooting it down would get you extra points and shields.
Sound and Vision:
Well to be sure Space Invaders has certainly received a graphical facelift for the '90's. Considering the fact that the original game was in black & white, just adding a nice little color palate would spruce things up significantly. Of course the developers didn't just stop with color though. Now we are treated to fully realized backdrops that represent the different planets that you will journey to stop the marauding aliens. Special effects like particle explosions and transparencies abound so much so in fact there is occasionally slowdown on the screen when there are two-players in action and a lot of destruction is taking place at the same time. The slowdown doesn't occur often, but it is in there non-the less.
Like I said though, the graphics are a true leap over the original and make the game feel fresh again while still maintaining the classic appearance of Space Invaders. All of the aliens are multi-colored now, as is the turret tank that you control and the animation of all the characters if just as mesmerizing as ever. Overall, the new "look" of Space Invaders is certainly welcome and a smashing success.
The sound effects are virtually the same as the original, but the dynamics and frequency ranges are much broader now so everything seems to fill out much better. There are of course some new sounds as well like lasers slicing through aliens and multiple explosion noises that were just not possible when the original game was first created.
Not much in the way of music here folks just your spacey techno style background filler type stuff that plays out nicely with the scheme of the game.
Re-creating a classic must always be a daunting task, but with Activision's recent facelift of Asteroids I was fairly confidant that they would be able to do this title justice as well and I wasn't disappointed.
The game plays out much like the original Space Invaders did with wave after devastating wave of attacking aliens hell bent on one thing your destruction! You get to pilot a tank that is capable of firing off single laser blasts at the enemies with every push of the button. Every once in a while an alien mother ship will dart across the top of the screen. If you can hit it through the columns of aliens you will be rewarded with shields that will protect your ship from one enemy shot. There are also occasionally blocks that appear at the bottom of the screen. You can choose to use these blocks in a number of ways. You can hide behind them (wimpy!), blast them upwards and into the aliens (smart!) or just leave them where they appear and hope that it will block the aliens downward movement (risky!). That's about where the similarities end between the two versions though.
Now, in addition to dropping off shields, the mother ship may also release max power, double shot and time. Max power is pretty self-explanatory, double shot pumps out ammo faster and time will freeze all of the aliens on the screen for a short of time and make for easy picking's.
There are also "Specials" that you can obtain. There are now multiple types of aliens on the screen this time instead of just one style. If you can manage to hit four identical aliens in a row you will fill up your special bar and be rewarded with a special weapons that can be used one time. The Specials you can obtain are numerous and have devastating effects. Take for instance my favorite, the acid cloud fire off this yellow gaseous baby and it floats through the grid of aliens wiping out any one that it touches! Then there is the laser blast that can shoot a laserbeam wall that will rip through aliens like a hot knife through butter. Other Specials are more strategic in nature like the horizontal left and right missiles. When used properly, you can shred across rows of aliens and continue to regenerate your Special bar!
Another little twist is that there are now new patterns that the aliens will take on the screen. Instead of always lining up in an 8 x 5 pattern, now you see broken formations, and various combinations within the grid. Depending on the level, these broken patterns will often work to the alien's advantage and force gamers to pick off middle columns before destroying the ends. For anyone that has ever played Space Invaders before will know that not slicing off the ends first allows the aliens to descend on your tank quicker.
The game starts you off on Pluto in an effort to stop the alien horde from reaching planet Earth. After that you progress through the planets in the Solar System until you are on Earth's soil. The progression is in planet order from Pluto to Earth with the exception of Venus for some reason Venus comes after Mars and then you are on Earth weird.
Here is a quick breakdown of the major aliens you will encounter on each planet and some of their more unique characteristics:
Character = Common. This alien is easily dispatched and is a good way for newbies to get into the game.
Character = Switcher. Nothing too difficult yet, just an alien that has decent attack powers.
Character = Blocker. When hit this alien will split into two fiery pieces that extinguish themselves once they move down a row.
Character = Angler. Now things start to get harder. Angler's have the ability to shoot diagonally making them a bit more difficult to target.
Character = Freezer. These guys will drop out of formation when they get an opening and hover just above the ground shooting off a freezing beam. These aliens take advantage of broken pattern formations.
Character = Burster. This alien is a pain in the ass. Once destroying it will send an expanding cascade of particles raining down on your tank. Be careful!
Character = Kamikaze. Just like its name says hit it and it will dive bomb your tank in a last ditch effort to take you out with it.
Character = Splitter. Pop this alien and it will split into three smaller pieces and reinsert itself back into the grid formation. Saving Earth sure can be tough!
In addition to the above-mentioned aliens, there are others inserted into the mix that can bring their own style of destruction down upon your tank. I also intentionally left out a few major players just so you can be thoroughly surprised (hehehe).
There are also bosses that must be defeated at the end of each level before you can progress to the next planet. Each one is different from the others and requires a unique strategy to defeat them. Surprisingly I found the first boss to be one of the most difficult to destroy as its patterns ended up being much more random than most of the others.
Overall I would that the new Space Invaders is an undeniable success. It retains the same heart-pumping tension of the original while still fitting in rather nicely with the "look" of today's games.
This is a 1 disk game for 1 or 2 Players. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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