I wasnâ€™t alive when Space Invaders hit arcades in 1978, but if somebody told me back then that weâ€™d still be playing Space Invaders games in 2020, itâ€™s doubtful I would have believed them. Even during the late â€˜70s arcade technology moved swiftly – a constant cycle of new cabinets replacing old. Not everything is prone to fading away, however. Classics never get old, whether itâ€™s the unmistakable taste of Coca-Cola or good old Space Invaders.
Of course, Space Invaders has altered over the years, taking new directions via spin-offs. To bring back an analogy, the games included on Space Invaders Forever are the equivalent of Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, and Coca-Cola Energy. The basic unmistakable formula is the same, only each has a twist.
Problem is, some are more acquired tastes than others. Cinnamon Coca-Cola, anyone?
Space Invaders Extreme is this collectionâ€™s headliner. Originally released on Nintendo DS and PSP in 2008, it went on to become a fan favourite entry. This version is based on the more recent Steam re-release, and itâ€™s a good example of how style will always triumph over realism â€“ it may be over 12 years old, but it still looks fresh and modern, being a compelling and hyperactive experience.
This is Space Invaders at its most gratifying, with over-the-top power-ups, stylish presentation â€“ including CGI/FMV backdrops â€“ and a toe-tapping trance soundtrack. Itâ€™s rewarding, too, dishing out praise and bonuses for clearing columns and waves quickly.
If Space Invaders Extreme was offered as a Â£10 standalone download, weâ€™d bite the publisherâ€™s hand off in a heartbeat â€“ itâ€™s the stuff 9/10s are made out of. Sadly though, this isnâ€™t the case â€“ itâ€™s part of a Â£24.99 collection, and Space Invaders Gigamax SE is that previously mentioned acquired taste.
We can understand why Gigamax SE made the cut. This is the first time it has received a home release, and being co-op focused â€“ supporting four players â€“ itâ€™s a good fit for the family-friendly Switch. Understanding this doesnâ€™t make it any more pleasurable to play, sadly. This is the most authentic game present, meaning itâ€™s the least visually appealing. It feels a bit of a chore to play in single-player, and as an arcade release it was clearly designed to gobble coins â€“ bosses have unpredictable and punishing attack patterns.
Itâ€™s also incredibly short. Intended for quick burst score chasing, it features just three stages. After defeating the last boss, a high score screen reveals the best performing player…and thatâ€™s your lot. The only noteworthy feature is the music, which becomes more progressive throughout the gameâ€™s mere 15-minute duration. If you can get three friends together, you may have more fun with it than we did, although expect thrills to be short-lived regardless.
In the absence of museum-style features, this leaves us with Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders â€“ a mobile conversion from 2016. Its roots are disguised reasonably well thanks to modern presentation and redesigned full-screen menus. The game itself isnâ€™t much of a stretch of the imagination â€“ using the Arkanoid bat (controlled solely by the PS4â€™s touchpad; there are no other control options) itâ€™s a case of returning the Space Invaderâ€™s projectiles to clear waves within a time limit. Some Invaders â€œhideâ€ behind blocks, while others move from left to right. Their projectiles have different effects when hit too, rebounding in different angles.Â
After filling a gauge a power ball can be used, activated using a pleasing bow and arrow-style â€˜drag and releaseâ€™ mechanic. As time limits are tight itâ€™s essential to use this shot wisely.Â
Spread across 150 stages, itâ€™s backed by a supporting cast of classic Taito characters, including Tiki the Kiwi (New Zealand Story) and Bubby (Rainbow Islands), who have their own power-ups to experiment with. Thereâ€™s plenty here to get stuck into, meaning this will be the game most players will return to long after exploring all of Space Invaders Extremeâ€™s paths.
As with previous ININ releases (Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors, Darius Cozmic Collection), we were left wanting more; a museum, unlockable extras, or perhaps a fourth game to offset Gigamaxâ€™s shortcomings. But when you consider Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders and Extreme are worth a tenner of any retro fanaticâ€™s money, the Â£24.99 asking price balances out. More or less. If you can find the retail release for under Â£20, consider that a good deal.
Space Invaders Forever is out now on PS4 (tested) and Switch, both digitally and at retail.