I wasn’t alive when Space Invaders hit arcades in 1978, but if somebody told me back then that we’d still be playing Space Invaders games in 2020, it’s doubtful I would have believed them. Even during the late ‘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 it’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 collection’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 it’s a good example of how style will always triumph over realism – 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 – including CGI/FMV backdrops – and a toe-tapping trance soundtrack. It’s rewarding, too, dishing out praise and bonuses for clearing columns and waves quickly.
If Space Invaders Extreme was offered as a £10 standalone download, we’d bite the publisher’s hand off in a heartbeat – it’s the stuff 9/10s are made out of. Sadly though, this isn’t the case – it’s part of a £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 – supporting four players – it’s a good fit for the family-friendly Switch. Understanding this doesn’t make it any more pleasurable to play, sadly. This is the most authentic game present, meaning it’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 – bosses have unpredictable and punishing attack patterns.
It’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 that’s your lot. The only noteworthy feature is the music, which becomes more progressive throughout the game’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 – a mobile conversion from 2016. Its roots are disguised reasonably well thanks to modern presentation and redesigned full-screen menus. The game itself isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination – using the Arkanoid bat (controlled solely by the PS4’s touchpad; there are no other control options) it’s a case of returning the Space Invader’s projectiles to clear waves within a time limit. Some Invaders “hide” behind blocks, while others move from left to right. Their projectiles have different effects when hit too, rebounding in different angles.
After filling a gauge a power ball can be used, activated using a pleasing bow and arrow-style ‘drag and release’ mechanic. As time limits are tight it’s essential to use this shot wisely.
Spread across 150 stages, it’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. There’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 Extreme’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 Gigamax’s shortcomings. But when you consider Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders and Extreme are worth a tenner of any retro fanatic’s money, the £24.99 asking price balances out. More or less. If you can find the retail release for under £20, consider that a good deal.
Space Invaders Forever is out now on PS4 (tested) and Switch, both digitally and at retail.