Arcade remakes typically aren’t all that good but last year’s Space Invaders Extreme
caught me off guard by being stylish, addictive and challenging. It did everything right in reworking the arcade original into a much deeper modern interpretation, and apparently gamers voted with their wallets for a sequel. Taito has responded with more of the same, a lot more, and if that’s what you wanted then Extreme 2 is your dream come true. If you wanted a huge innovation over the first Space Invaders Extreme, then you might be disappointed.
I don’t mean to give a bad first impression, because Extreme 2 measures up to its predecessor in content. The habit-forming gameplay, scoring system and vibrant presentation are back for another round, but the overall experience is an evolutionary step. Taito worked to refine and deepen the concept with Extreme 2.
The most obvious improvements are in the scoring system, which is simultaneously more complex and easier to interpret. Fever Time makes a return but has seen some changes. As before, you trigger it by hitting four invaders of the same color in a row and then by killing a flashing UFO; spinning icons and a meter at the top of the screen make it easier to keep track of what colors you’ve toasted in Extreme 2. Fever Time happens on the top screen now, granting you unlimited use of a powered-up special weapon against waves of UFOs. Even if you miss the UFO, killing four same-colored enemies still gives you a powerup weapon—laser for blue, bomb for red, wide shot for green and the new improved shield for black. You can still keep these weapons in reserve by holding the L trigger.
If you complete a Fever Time successfully, it fills in a slot on a 3 by 3 bingo card on the top screen—the slot color matches the color of the four enemies you killed to start the Fever Time in the first place. If you line up three colored squares in a row you get Bingo Time, an even crazier bonus round that grants huge score bonuses. This bingo card opens up a ton of score combo possibilities and if you’re good you can fill in the whole card, which needless to say nets you an insane amount of points.
These changes in scoring are implemented into all of the games modes. There’s a whole new Score Attack sequence to blast through with three difficulty tiers, for a total of eleven stages. The levels feature even tougher invader formations and some pretty brutal boss fights on the harder tiers, but this time there’s a beginner difficulty for inexperienced players, that takes you through only the easiest tier with infinite lives. If you manage to unlock all eleven stages, however, the Extreme difficulty opens up, which offers harder formations, new invader types and even tougher bosses. There’s still a stage select option so you can go back and try for a high score on any level you’ve completed in Score Attack.
The Ranking mode still challenges you to make it through a five-level tier without using any continues, and lets you upload your final score to a leaderboard at the end. Ranking is joined by the new Time Attack mode where score has no purpose and only completion time matters. Multiplayer mode is about the same with a few new combo options, and still lets two players compete ad-hoc or over the Nintendo Wifi Connection.
Extreme 2 looks and sounds like a juiced up version of the first game. The acid-trip colors are even flashier and the backgrounds animating wildly behind the invader formations have an indie-art vibe. The morphing pixel art quality of the invaders and the various effects looks about the same but it worked so well in the first game and I’m glad they stuck with it.
The music is still electronica that is synced to the actions performed on screen—your cannon shots produce different notes and rhythms depending on what weapon you’re using—but the musical stats are no longer displayed on the top screen, replaced by the bingo card. I didn’t pay much attention to that display in the first place and the bingo mechanic is, I think, a more compelling feature. The in-game announcer has more to say this time, cheering you on and giving cues to various combos you can pull off. All in all Extreme 2 is a psychedelic feast of retro style for both the eyes and ears, just like the first game.
Unfortunately “just like the first game” is a pretty accurate description for Extreme 2. It makes slight improvements on all the things that worked so well last time and offers a lot more of the same great content, but there aren’t a many new ideas which ends up making Extreme 2 feel like a big expansion pack instead of a sequel. I’m also a little disappointed that once again, they didn’t include the original arcade game as an unlockable.
If you loved the first game and want more levels, bosses and score challenges, then the sequel is a sealed deal at only $20. If, however, you liked the original but want something fresher, then you might want to hold off. That said, Extreme 2 is still just as good as its predecessor, and with so many crappy DS games out there running you a full $35, this arcade sequel is a bargain and a gem at only 20 bucks.
Space Invaders Extreme 2 keeps the same addictive elements that made the first game so good and adds a few new features, but it's more of an incremental improvement. The gameplay is still great but very similar to last year's game, which makes Extreme 2 feel like a huge expansion pack. It's still a standout DS game though and a bargain at only $20.