Publisher: Backbone Entertainment
Release Date: TBA 2009
It takes a special kind of game to keep the masses entertained after 30 years, but that's exactly what Space Invaders has managed to do. After countless remakes, reimaginings and spin-offs, we keep coming back for more because there's something about protecting Earth from pixelated aliens that speaks to our primal gaming instincts. One of the most recent (and better) versions of the game was last year's Space Invaders Extreme, which graced handhelds. Now the invasion is set to land on Xbox Live Arcade with enough new features to draw back even those who have played the title to death on their handheld of choice.
The single-player in the console version is identical to the others; players once again fire up at the waves of invaders, and shooting four in a row of the same color earns a temporary weapon upgrade (bomb, laser, shield boost or wide shot). Continued group blasting grants the opportunity to enter Fever and Break modes, where the points skyrocket and the nasty outer space buggers get a bit tougher. It's all as frantic as before, and for those who thought the original was somehow too tame, the game also features an Extreme mode to really test your skills. While there aren't any big leaps on the single-player front, the game is still a load of simple, crazy fun, even when you're playing alone.
Of course, the console crowd demands robust multiplayer in this day and age, and the new version of Space Invaders Extreme is happy to oblige. The game will showcase two co-op and two competitive multiplayer modes, which can be played both locally and online. We got to test-drive a couple of the multiplayer modes with some of the team that's making the game, and the title is perfect for parties and local gameplay sessions, given its frantic nature and the fact that in several of the modes, you have to share the screen with your fellow defender of Earth. Sure, you can shout into your headset about how you just stole the laser power-up, wiped out the entire wave and hogged all the points, but it's more fun to taunt your buddy when he's sitting next to you on the couch. With a game like this, fun is a virtual guarantee, and it's even more fun when you're sharing the experience with friends.
Another new feature that's worth mentioning is that Jeff Minter is handling all of the new visualizer art for the game, and the result is absolutely fantastic. Levels start off with quiet music and peaceful visuals that don't really look like much of anything. As things progress, however, the music begins thumping, the controller starts vibrating in rhythm, and you can see in the background that what you thought was just a random blob is actually a depiction of the progression of the invaders' attack on Earth. The entire experience is quite surreal and nearly trance-inducing, and there's a good chance you may be content just to sit and watch someone else play so you can enjoy the coalescing of the sights and sounds into an incredible sensory experience.
We're still waiting on word for a release date or pricing, but it's basically a universal truism that when you put out a Space Invaders game, people will buy it. It's just an added bonus when the game is as good as this one and makes you appreciate the 30 years of history it proudly represents. One thing's for sure: If the planet ever is assaulted by slow, sideways-moving aliens then I'm ready for it, and I plan to spend the next 30 years honing my skills … just in case.
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