For me the most jarring aspect of this new Space Invaders is that it is actually split up into levels, very similar to a lot of the classic shooters that came after the 30 year old original. As you play the game you'll start to notice that the game isn't as random as it looks, there's a rhyme and a reason to each level. There's even a fun boss battle at the end of each stage. It may not have a story, but Space Invaders Extreme is definitely a more linear experience than what we saw in the original game and its sequels.
The one complaint against the arcade mode is the length, which is admittedly a bit on the short side. If you don't worry about the bonus levels and just focus on completing the game's five levels, then you should be able to shoot your way through this level in just around an hour. That's right; the full single-player campaign is no longer than one hour. Sure I would have liked more, but at the same time I can't help but gush over the content that is actually in that hour. And unlike story-driven games, you'll actually want to go back through this game over and over again, so there is definitely replay value in this $20 game.
But don't take the game's short single-player campaign to mean that Space Invaders Extreme is easy. At first everything seems simple enough, but it won't take more than a level or two before you begin having to work to survive. There is nothing worse than getting to the end level boss and then dying, only to be thrown all the way back to the beginning of the level and asked to do it all again. So many times I threw down my PSP (gently, of course) and vowed I wouldn't play it again. Yet there I was, no more than three minutes later, trying it again. Yes, the game can be frustrating, but somehow that anger and bitterness only last a few seconds, then you're off trying these levels all over again.
When you're done with the single-player mode there are a number of other things you can do with the game. For starters, you can try your luck at the harder difficulties. Not only will the enemies be harder, but you will also be privy to brand new levels. You can also go in and play all of the individual levels that you've unlocked, which can be fun ... if you're the kind of person who likes besting your hi score.
Perhaps the most exciting mode is the multiplayer mode, which allows you and another player to battle it out one on one. Although this mode is on the simple side, it's hard to deny how addictive the two-player mode in Space Invaders Extreme is. Unfortunately this PSP game does not have online play, which is something that came standard with the Nintendo DS version. And that's not the only thing missing from this version of the game; you also can't browse the online leader boards. I'm not sure why Taito made these cuts, but it's disappointing nonetheless.
Thankfully Taito didn't downgrade Space Invader Extreme's presentation. The simple truth is that this game looks fantastic. It may not look as detailed as God of War or Crisis Core, but nobody is going to argue that the graphics are disappointing. All of the aliens look crystal clear, the effects are cool and the backgrounds look like they were ripped out of Lumines. Like Pac-Man: Championship Edition, Space Invaders Extreme manages to have a fantastic new look, all while retaining the classic motif of the original game. It's a tightrope Taito had to walk, but they did it with absolute perfection.
Sadly the music isn't nearly as good as the graphics, but there's no reason you need to keep the sound on. For a game that feels like it was influenced by Q Entertainment's games, it's a shame that Taito doesn't have the same musical prowess of Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Maybe that's why I'm so disappointed by the game's generic beats, when a game looks like Lumines I expect it to have the same rockin' soundtrack. But alas this game doesn't, and so I played the game with the sound off and my music on.
The pictures simply don't do this game justice, Space Invaders Extreme requires you to play it before you fully understand how much of an improvement it is. I wasn't a big Space Invaders fan going in, but this game has completely won me over. At the super-low price of $20 there's no reason you shouldn't run out to the store and buy this game immediately, even if you're like me and not a big fan of the original game. Not only is this one of the PSP's best shooters, but this is one of the handheld's best games this year. Bravo Taito, hopefully there's more reboots like this in the works.
Space Invaders Extreme did the impossible - turned this long-time skeptic into a true believer. This isn't just a fun retro resurrection, it's a phenomenal action game that should be in everybody's collection. At $20 there's no reason to be without Space Invaders Extreme.
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