It’s difficult to deny that Space Invaders is one of the most influential videogames of all time. The 1978 original was one of the first major arcade hits (it caused coin shortages in Japan!) and its gameplay influenced countless successive games. Heck, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto credits it as the title that initially inspired him.
Yes, Space Invaders is a classic, but its gameplay is a bit too simple these days; the predictable march of attacking aliens — and your ship’s solitary weapon — just doesn’t hold up past the first few levels. Even 30+ years later, Taito (the game’s developer) occasionally issues new versions of the game to keep the formula fresh, such as last year’s Space Invaders Extreme. The sequel to this drastic revision initially seems like more of the same… and on the surface, it is.
But after a few rounds, you start to discover newly implemented features and slight variations that affect how you play. The most obvious change is the addition of a time attack mode. This is the same as the standard score attack mode, except that instead of aiming for the highest possible score, you must complete the game with the fastest time. It’s a nice variation, but it hardly screams “new.”
The real changes become noticeable once you start playing — the pace feels much quicker now, due in no small part to the fact that the frequent bonus rounds no longer stop regular play by whisking you off to engage in a mini-game. Instead, the bonus round appears on the DS’s top screen, while the “normal” level continues on the touch-screen. During these times, you essentially have twice as many enemies to contend with, making things much more hectic.
When you’re not in a bonus round (or the special Fever Time mode that follows a successful bonus round), the top screen displays Extreme 2′s new Bingo system. This three-by-three grid keeps track of the various colors of invaders that you destroy to trigger Fever Time, and connecting three squares activates “Super Fever Time,” a bonus round that allows you to rack up some incredibly high scores. If the Bingo system sounds a bit confusing… well, it is. It’s especially difficult to keep track of during the heat of battle; with practice, a skilled player could easily manipulate it for some impressive results. It’s this elaborate combo system (which comprises the Bingo system, bonus rounds, and Fever Time) that ultimately makes Extreme 2 so much fun to play. Although a novice could be content to mindlessly blast away to the music’s beat, a serious player will analyze each wave and determine the best plan of attack to earn the highest score.
Taking the time to improve your skills definitely pays off, especially once you dive into the multiplayer mode. The versus battles aren’t quite as intense as the single-player mode, but they’re good for a quick diversion. The game supports both online and DS Download play, so you shouldn’t have to search far for opponents.
If you’ve already worn out your copy of Space Invaders Extreme, you may find the sequel a bit redundant. The new combo system is great, and it certainly speeds up the action, but overall, the game doesn’t feel much different. It’s still a fantastic update to an arcade classic, and it’s hard to argue with its low $20 price tag — if you happened to miss the first installment, don’t make the same mistake twice.