Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Space Invaders -- PlayStation -- Review

Space Invaders
Publisher: Taito
Genre: Slide-and-Shoot, 1 or 2 players (simultaneous).


First Contact occurred November 22nd, 1978. It was then that the original Space Invaders hit the Arcades in the U.S. in full force, wrenching millions of quarters from gamers' pockets. Wave after wave of alien invaders descended from the heavens in precise rows, pouring missiles upon an all but helpless Earth. If it weren't for the experimental Tanks (originally called Laser Bases), which had been created by our xenophobic government years before, humanity would have fallen prey to these ominous galactic beings. Guided by the hands of skilled gamers across the nation, these tanks were instrumental in shooting the aliens out of the skies. Countless tank pilots lost their lives, but in the end, we won the battle and Earth returned to a state of (relative) normalcy.

Flash forward to 1997, and the aliens returned. Just like those in the original Space Invaders, these aliens, which are colorful and more detailed, begin at the top of the playfield, march in rows from side to side and descend to the bottom of the screen. Beginning with Pluto, this new alien invasion is headed for Earth. Luckily, using the wreckage from the destroyed aliens from the original invasion, the government has been at work the last couple of decades on a new kind of tank. The new Tank was born complete with hover capability, multi-adaptive hard-points and an electromagnetic shielding system powered by a nuclear core.
Your job in this updated-for-the-'90s version of Space Invaders is to maneuver the newly designed Tank horizontally along the bottom of the playfield and blast enemies out of the sky. Each time you destroy a wave of invaders, a new wave appears. Between stages (planets) you must face a giant boss. There are 13 enemy species and more than 100 levels, including hidden worlds and the original Space Invaders game. Scoring 50,000 will net you an extra tank. You can also earn extra tanks in the bonus stage.

Unlike the original Space Invaders, which consisted of standard slide-and-shoot action (using a single type of missile), this game is loaded with power-ups. You can retrieve shields, double shots, timestops and energy boosts from the mother ship. Destroyed aliens provide vertical blasts, horizontal bursts, diagonal bursts, swarm missiles, fat lasers, boomerang bombs, acidic clouds and other powerful weaponry. The original game had bunkers for defense in every wave while this version offers blockades that appear in some levels. You can shoot the blockades upwards, into the aliens' path.

Space Invaders offers a two-player simultaneous mode in which players cooperate against the aliens, but there is no two-player alternating mode like in the original.


Resurrecting an all-but-dead brand of 2D shooter, that of the slide-and-shoot (from a fixed horizontal pattern) variety, Space Invaders for the PlayStation is loaded with potential. As a fan of the original Space Invaders and of retro-gaming in general, I was eager to get my grubby hands on this disc. Much to my dismay, I found that the game is not only loaded with potential, it is loaded with flaws as well--unforgivable flaws, the kind that will turn off even the most non-discriminating of gamers.

Naturally, just like most any game from the mid-to-late 1990s, this version of Space Invaders features a number of weapon power-ups, hidden worlds, and the like. In theory, these are welcome additions to the original Space Invaders formula. The problem lies in the power-ups. I like that you must shoot four ships of the same color (in sequence) in order to acquire a weapon boost, but the power-ups make the game way too easy, even in the expert level of play. In the original game, a skilled player might (on a good day) get past 10 or 12 rounds on a single quarter; I beat this game's more than 100 levels the first day I played it.

Even with the color-coded power-ups, Space Invaders for the PlayStation is a mindless exercise in button smashing. The original game required good aim and a steady hand to ensure a high score, but this game requires only that the player be conscious. You'd think that with bosses, bonus rounds and a wide variety of enemies, just a few of the many things the original game lacked, this version of Space Invaders would be highly challenging. I can assure you that it is not. The bosses are very easy to figure out, the bonus rounds (which are all the same) feature sitting duck flying saucers as targets, and the alien invaders rarely pose an overwhelming threat.

The appearance of the final two bosses in Space Invaders will greatly please fans of the original Arcade game. As you probably guessed, one of the bosses is a giant-sized invader from the original game. I won't spoil the surprise as to the identity of the other boss, but those of you who were Arcade rats in the late 1970s and early 1980s will be floored. Unfortunately, these two special bosses, like the most of the others in this game, are extremely easy to defeat.

Once you have beaten Space Invaders, a nicely done port of the original Space Invaders game becomes available for play. I've already got an excellent and more varied rendition of the original Space Invaders for my Super Game Boy and PlayStation 2, so this didn't thrill me as much as it could have. Even so, unless video games from the early era of gaming make you nauseous, you'll find yourself playing the "hidden" Arcade version much more than the updated, feature-heavy version.

For a more vibrant, challenging and exciting take on an old favorite, try Asteroids for the PlayStation.


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