GAME REVIEW: Space Invaders Forever
Maxwell Alexander finds there is life in the old dog yet.
Title: Space Invaders Forever
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (tested), PlayStation 4
Release date: December 11
Rating: PEGI 3
2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the iconic arcade game Space Invaders' debut on console. First releasing in 1970 on the Atari 2600, Space Invaders captured the public’s imagination and gone on to become a pop culture icon. Appearing on everything from the Commodore 64 to the Sega Master System and now the current generation of console, the game has been inescapable in video game history.
To celebrate this long legacy, Taito has released a collection of three of its more recent iterations on the classic arcade shooter. In the Space Invader Forever bundle you will get Space Invaders Extreme, Space Invader Gigamex 4 and Arkanoid versus Space Invaders. Three rather different takes on the originals formula, but three games that are very much Space Invaders at theircore.
Space Invaders Extreme was originally released in 2008 on PSP and Nintendo DS and this version is a direct port on to modern consoles. Whilst on the face of it, you’re getting the same experience you’ve had on the hundreds of other versions of the game, this version is arguably the most frantic and fast paced of the bunch.
Firstly the aliens look the same as they always have but act differently than in previous titles. This can range from simple changes in size and speed but as you progress through the arcade mode you’ll come across enemies with special abilities too. These abilities can be anything from a shield that reflects your shots back at you and even some that can split into three smaller invaders when struck.
You can get by with some nimble movement and precise shooting for most invaders but some enemies need you take on one of the new special abilities you can get from beating specific enemies' types in a row. There are a number of special moves available depending on the colour of the enemy you have defeated. Beat four red invaders and receive an explosive bomb ability or take down four blue invaders and unleash a devastating beam attack that can wipe out whole armies of invaders in one fell swoop.
It’s a nice change-up to a game that is essential moving side to side with your finger on the trigger and helps to take down some of the more powerful invaders quickly.
End-of-area boss battles make for some of the more interesting sections of the game, challenging players to decipher how to dispatch gargantuan invaders using a combination of specific abilities and pinpoint timing to win.
Abilities only last a certain amount of time, so you have to me quick or hold your weapon using the right shoulder button. It can make for some tense match ups and if you’re wasteful it can really hurt your chance of victory. Especially later on when enemies become a lot more aggressive and the game turns more bullet hell than traditional shooter. Holding in particular becomes essential to beating some of the later bosses and you will only have the briefest of windows to strike with a special ability.
If you do run out of lives however, it’s not game over as you can continue from exactly where you left off but at the cost of your points total. This can be frustrating if you are chasing high scores on the online leaderboards, but ultimately it takes away an element of danger that can make some victories a little hollow. A reset to an earlier wave would have been preferred but effectively you can just power through most areas and boss fights without any real danger and that’s a shame.
This mode is a lot better than the Space Invader Gigamex 4 which lets players play a more retro version of the classic, with up to four players. Gigamex 4 can be fun to play with friends and beat each other’s score, but you definitely notice the lack of speed and abilities when playing alongside the other titles in your bundle.
It can have its moments, like managing team mate’s positions to effectively clear levels but outside of this the enjoyment is short-lived. It’s especially grindy when played solo, as to beat most of the bosses you need to use power shots that need you to team up with your friend ships and hit a powerful shot that takes a chunk of damage off the health bar.
The last of the three games is a mash-up of two Taito classics – Arkanoid and Space Invaders. This was by far the most revolutionary of the three games and for me, it was the version that really sunk its hooks in.
First off, being a port from a mobile game, you are required to play it portably in the vertical position on Switch. Utilising the touch controls to maneuver the famous paddle (the Vaus) left and right, deflecting missiles from the invaders back at them.
Each level sees you targeting specific enemy types to clear before the time runs out. To help with this, you have a handy ‘Attack mode’ that is essentially a bow and arrow, to target specific enemies. It's ridiculously addictive and getting your Attack mode at the right time can be the difference between beating a level and not, especially later on in the game, when objects blocking your target become more prevalent.
This is the only mode that has any form of a story mode, even if it is a bit bare bones and probably takes itself a little too seriously, given the type of game you’re playing. It is also the game with the most unique style, with anime characters and some 3d modeled ships you have to face in boss battles.
I was surprised at how much content there was on display with the version. Not only in terms of game play, which can be surprisingly strategic at times, but also in way of the unlockables.
As you play the 150 levels you’ll unlock up to 40 different characters to take control of, including classic characters from Taito’s back catalogue, like Bubble Bubbles cute little Dinosaur – Bub. Each character come with their own unique special ability, such as increasing the size of the paddle, slowing down time or increasing your attack strength. These powers were rarely significant enough to have too much of an impact in beating a level to warrant me switching to specific characters, but they were quite fun to collect.
The most impactful powers you get are items. You’ll have a choice of four items at the beginning of each level that greatly tip the scales in your favour. You can double your ball strength, increase the size of your paddle by 50 per cent and even bonuses for your Attack mode. To unlock them you must pay for them using coins that you have collected by beating levels quickly.
Each time you use an item, it increases in price the next time you use it, forcing you to make a decision as to whether you really need it on one of the early levels or save it for a tough end of area boss battle. Decisions like this make for a far more tactical experience than this game has any right be and really effect how successful you are later on.
Space Invaders has always been a simple yet satisfying game to play and in this bundle you have three of the best ways to play it. The simplicity of the game is perfect for sitting in front of the TV and playing portably on the Switch but should you want to climb that leaderboard, there is plenty of depth to get stuck into, especially on Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders.
How long the game can keep you interested is subjective but it’s not likely to be the type of game that will have you coming back for hours at a time. But it is a very polished and fun reworking of an old classic.