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PSP Fanboy review: Space Invaders Extreme

Ushering in the 30th anniversary of a true gaming classic, Space Invaders Extreme is set to rekindle respect for all things retro. With all new add-ons and the obligatory face lift expected of a modern day remake, Space Invaders Extreme takes good old-fashioned fun and transforms it in a refreshingly new spin of things without destroying the original formula. Is it the same game you've grown to love over the years? Yes, yes it is; however, it's so much more than that, too.

The original Space Invaders was an incredibly simple game. You have your spaceship at the bottom of the screen, and the enemies are on top slowly making their way down to you. Your objective is to blow them up before they reach you. Simple enough, right? With Space Invaders Extreme, this set up remains intact but, unlike the original, the game implores a variety of new tactics in how you can take out the alien scum as well as in how they attack you.

First off, the enemies have evolved. They have new tools at their disposal. Some come with thick armor that has to be worn down before you can make the killing shot; others have reflector shields that can fire your attacks back at you. Some, when hit once, will begin to rush towards you; you'll have to take them down quick or they'll easily blow up your ship. There are also over-sized enemies which can take more hits. And of course, the huge bosses at the end of each level are the biggest problems yet and you'll have to think slightly out of the box to take them down.

As the enemies get tougher, you also get stronger. You've got three special attack power ups. To use these special attacks, you'll need to collect different-colored square pieces, which are dropped by enemies of their respective color. For example a red enemy will drop red squares to give you a powerful bomb-like attack; green squares give you a stream of five beams; and blue squares give you a huge constant beam as long as you hold down the 'x' button. Squares don't appear randomly -- they appear when you've shot down four aliens of the same color in a row. A fourth power up, the shield, gives you temporary invulnerability. All power ups are temporary upgrades, and your weapons revert back to normal once a gauge to the right side of the screen runs out.

Certain invader crafts will appear; when you shoot them down, the game will bring you into "rounds." These are bonus areas which can give you some special bonuses. Shooting down a yellow one of these ships will bring you to a roulette which can either: give you extra lives, add another buddy to attack alongside you, or freeze time. Red ships bring you to short mini-game-like areas; complete the mini-game, and you'll get a powerful upgrade called "fever time." Fever time basically makes your ship's firepower uber-strong, and has a gauge that depletes slower letting you stay more powerful longer.

Now that you know how the game works, there's one more thing you need to know: the game is really hard. Even some easy levels are quite challenging. Considering that there are only ten regular levels in the game (five of these are unique with the rest just more difficult versions of same stages), the difficulty is really the only thing that elongates playtime. Once you beat arcade mode, you'll unlock extreme mode which is, as it suggests, extremely hard. You get an additional five levels.

Aside from the main game mode, the PSP version of the game lacks some other features that the DS version flaunts -- this means no online leaderboard and online multiplayer. Speaking of multiplayer, the PSP version only supports ad hoc for two players who both need their own copies of the game. The mode is really not that great; the objective is to see who lasts longer than the other player; whoever runs out of lives first loses.

Graphically, the game's style is simple, but still looks quite attractive. The enemies and your spaceship retain an old school art design; that was actually a rather welcomed decision as the images give off an air of nostalgia. The special effects on the ever-changing battlefield background and the effects on all the attacks look great, and at the same time give the game an authentic arcade vibe. While most of the screen is black, the strong emphasis on contrasting colors on enemies and objects help brighten things up.

The background music tracks are the real shining point of this game; they're rather infectious. Meanwhile, the sound effects seamlessly blend in with the tunes providing this ambient aural experience. You might find this silly but you can listen, play, and dance to the game all at the same time and it would feel completely natural. Each of the unique levels have their own tune; considering how few levels there are, this also means there isn't particularly a good variety.

Overall, Space Invaders Extreme is a simple, fun, short, and difficult game. Given that it launched with a budget price at around $20, what few qualms we had can be easily overlooked with the value you're getting for your dollar. With so few really good games releasing as of late, there really isn't a reason not to get yourself a copy.

PSP Fanboy score: 8.0

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