Space Invaders Extreme

I picked up Space Invaders Extreme for the PSP which was released last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders. When I was a kid, one of the first videogames I played was a Space Invaders handheld that one of my uncles owned. This massive, beige plastic device would occupy all my time until the batteries would die and I could scrounge up some new ones from various TV remotes and other abandoned electronics. I’d sit on the stairs for hours with that thing, fighting off wave after wave of glowing red Invaders as they swept across the fixed LED display. I invented firing through your own shield to open a digital arrow loop.

And that was my entire experience with Space Invaders up until this point – a week spent with that handheld almost 20 years ago.

Well… I’m still playing Space Invaders on a handheld, but everything else has changed! There’s the expected – the graphics are better, although they’ve kept the pixelated look. Every object in the game is colourful and vibrant. The music is all new, including a great remix of the ominous Space Invaders theme. The backgrounds throb and pulse with the new music, music that is accented by the sounds of your ship’s laser firing, and the impact noises on enemies.

The original enemies are all there, but now they can scatter projectiles across the whole screen, drop columns of burning light down on you, even reflect your shots back at you. They come in 3 different sizes now too, which doesn’t sound too game-changing until you fight them. The larger versions are logically equivalent to a group of 4 invaders, all moving at once across the screen. They can take ten times as long to kill it, but fire a quarter of the time that 4 invaders could. The small ones are the real threat – hard to hit and see. Even the regular invaders can turn sideways now, exposing less surface area for you to hit.

The flying saucers that sweep the top of the screen make a return, only this time they have colour variations that reveal their hidden powers. Some saucers will add another invader to the descending column. Others will charge and unleash lasers of their own at you. The bonus points they used to provide are now a real bonus level, where you can rack up points, or charge up your weapons. Oh yes, this is a modern shooter, and there are weapon power ups: Screen-clearing beams, spread shots, explosive and shots. The unmoving shields from classic Space Invaders even make a return as a temporary addition to the front of your ship.

Like the Pac-Man remake on Xbox Live released last year, Space Invaders Extreme keeps enough of the classic game to invoke nostalgia, but also updates the game enough so that people unfamiliar with the original can enjoy it. And at the budget price of $19.99, it’s hard to go wrong.

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