Space Invaders Infinity Gene Review

Insane but fun vertically scrolling shooter in the Space Invaders universe.

Introduction

Space Invaders, the original game from 1978 that has defined video games for generations, is back. This time the battle takes place in an evolutionary universe where only one thing is for certain – there is endless amounts of invaders and you must stop them at all costs. In Space Invaders Infinity Gene you’ll get to fight some of the biggest and baddest invaders yet.

The Game

Space Invaders Infinity Gene is a retro-styled vertically scrolling arcade shoot ’em up that builds upon the classic Space Invaders formula. As a player you control a lone space ship and you’re fighting against the relentless alien invaders. The twist here is that the game evolves as you play and that it can randomly generate levels, and even generate levels from music on your hard drive. Another thing about this game that makes it stand out is that it is quite enigmatic. It is a smorgasbord of weird sights and sounds – some charming, some freaky, and it’s all consistent to the Space Invaders concept.

Content

So how exactly does the game evolve? It all starts with simple monochrome 2D style pixel graphics. As you progress through the stages, you’ll see that the backgrounds gain texture and color and that your ship gains new abilities, such as moving freely in all directions and shooting rapid fire. Furthermore you’ll unlock new playable ships (which have different weapons) and bonus stages as you go. Even further in, the game introduces 3D style enemies and environments and some stages even lets you play in a 3D space of sorts. Each stage has a boss waiting at the end and when the last boss is defeated, you’ve beaten the game.

The original concept of Space Invaders involves taking cover behind barriers and clearing screen after screen of invading enemies. Most of that convention is eschewed here. Instead, the screen will keep flooding with enemies in all sorts of attack patterns and from all possible angles until the boss encounter begins. There’s even mini bosses to battle and impassable walls that are to be avoided.

In its core, this is a very simple and approachable game. Even if you haven’t played the previous Space Invaders games you’ll instantly recognize what this is all about. That is the beauty of simplistic game design. As expected though, the game has quite some depth – playing just to beat it and playing for a high score are two entirely different disciplines and this game makes that very obvious.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene has four different game modes; Normal Mode, Bonus Mode, Challenge Mode and Music Mode. Normal Mode consists of 65 levels of increasing difficulty. Bonus Mode has five bonus chapters where the main goal is to gain a high score. Challenge Mode consists of 99 randomly generated levels. Music Mode let’s you pick a song from your hard drive, and the game will then generate a single stage from that song, as the song plays in the background.space_invaders_infinity_gene_3

Regardless of what game mode you play, the game evolves when you fill the evolution meter, which is based on your achieved score. Each game mode has a “genetic code tree” that shows the available stages and at which stages you’ve made the game evolve. This code tree also serves as the stage selector before you begin play.

Each game mode, save for the Music Mode, has an online leaderboard where you can compare your score against players from all over the world. In fact, you’ll see your estimated online ranking increase in real time besides your score as you play, which really puts an emphasis on the competitive aspect of the game. It’s easy to submit your scores to the leaderboards but the game does not tell you that your scores aren’t legit unless you play with three lives only. As part of the game’s evolution you can choose to play with up to nine lives, but if you want to record your score (even locally!) you must play with three lives.

You are given an infinite number of continues, meaning that when you’ve lost your lives you can continue play from the stage in which you died on. The game automatically saves your progress, so you can even shut off the game and later resume from any of the stages that you have played previously. The key that makes this to work is that your score is reset every time you lose your lives.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene stores your top record scores for each stage individually. This is perfect for multiple playthroughs as it encourages you to push your limits in score hunting.

In order to rake in some bonus points you are encouraged to perform so called Nagoya Attacks. When an enemy fires a bullet, the bullet will appear gray (instead of white) for a fraction of a second. Touching the bullet when it is gray is called a Nagoya Attack and will not kill you like touching a bullet normally would. It is tricky to perform consistently but it is the key to high scores. This obviously encourages you to take risks and it obviously makes score hunting a very risky business.

Other than Nagoya Attacks, your highest Combo is recorded along with your score. A Combo is simply when you kill multiple enemies in quick succession. In order to maintain a high Combo you may have to deliberately delay the killing of invaders, so that you can keep the Combo window open until the next attack wave arrives. As you may have guessed this game is not just about playing it through – rather, it is about perfecting your high score and taking it to the leaderboards.

Before you begin play, you get to choose which ship you want to pilot. The various ships, or weapons, that you can get are as follows;

  • Rapid – a standard twin bullet shooter with high fire rate.
  • Search – a heat seeking laser beam.
  • Wave – a wide angle beam that covers a considerable area.
  • Lock-On – a beam weapon that locks on to targets near your ship.
  • Gravity – a bomb type weapon that opens a black hole that sucks in enemies and bullets alike.
  • Round – a powerful projectile weapon that fires in the opposite direction in which you are traveling.
  • Field – an energy field that instantly destroys all hostile targets surrounding the ship.
  • Option – the ability to add external weapon pods, shooting armor piercing bullets.
  • Variable – a beam weapon which direction can be manipulated with ship movements.
  • Classic – a super powered single shot weapon.

All weapons, except for Classic, can be powered up by collecting gene power-ups which drop from certain invader UFO’s. These power-ups also give you bonus points and they’re generally plentiful, so even if you die and lose your power-ups, it’s often easy to get back on track.

Depending on what ship you choose to play, you’ll notice that the game plays very differently as each weapon has its unique strengths and weaknesses. Each ship is its own experience so to speak, and exploring it all really adds to the replay value.

Playing through the game you’ll notice that the same attack patterns and bosses are reused over and over again. When you begin to recognize attack patterns, you can easily start taking advantage of your previous knowledge. This makes it so that you have a chance to react to the oncoming enemies before they appear on the screen. Unlike most shoot ’em ups, bosses in this game have a number of attack patterns that it randomly alternates between. This means that you need quick reactions and can’t only rely on memorization. It also means that bosses can and will pull a few cheap tricks on you as they keep surprising you with new attacks the first few times you play.

The Music Mode is a mystery in how it generates its stages – at least if the stages are supposed to be linked with the music somehow. There is no obvious connection, which is a disappointment. A fast paced song tends to create more intense stages than slow paced songs do, but we can’t really confirm if that’s just our imaginations or coincidences. Other than the music, it plays much like the randomly generated stages in the Challenge Mode. Nevertheless, it’s nice to be able to play stages of your favorite songs, even if it’s just more randomly generated stages.

Evolution in this game also means unlocking new stuff in the Collection Mode. There you’ll be able to listen to music and sound effects from the game. It isn’t the most fleshed out gallery of unlockable bonuses you’ll see but it certainly passes for some good fan service.

Beating the various game modes will unlock new difficulty settings and there are five difficulty settings in total. Harder difficulty settings will make invaders more aggressive and even release a bullet in your direction when they’re killed. There are no specific leaderboards for the various difficulty levels. However, scores from the Easy difficulty level are not legit. As harder difficulty levels make enemies fire more bullets, there are more chances to perform Nagoya Attacks which certainly opens up for more potential points, but at the same time makes it that much harder to stay alive. Once again, there is a fine balance to walk here and you can keep pushing your limits as you get better.

Even though this game generally has a hectic pace, it has numerous moments where absolutely nothing happens. This typically happens before or after boss fights but there are also breather pauses during stages (combo breakers!). These intermissions easily breaks one’s concentration, and since there is a fully functional pause button in the game, there’s no telling why the developers made it this way. We’re guessing that they’re supposed to be dramatic pauses.

Much of the game just seems random which feels a bit gimmicky in the long run. But the single most biggest problem with the entire game is that enemies will keep surprising you by either flat out spawning on top of you, or rushing into you from out of nowhere, leaving you no time to react, killing you in the process. Needless to say, this kind of thing can be infuriating.space_invaders_infinity_gene_4

Controls

The controls are simple – you can move around and shoot and that’s basically it. You can hold down the Cross button for auto-fire functionality and if you hold your ship still while shooting you’ll automatically perform rapid fire. In a sense, the game encourages you to be still as much as possible but with the frantic tempo of this game there’s a fine balance to walk.

When the game flows into 3D mode it can be hard to see exactly where your ship is positioned compared to enemies and this is important when you’re supposed to dodge barrages of bullets and all the agitated invader ships. It easily makes for some cheap deaths.

Graphics

Space Invaders Infinity Gene rides highly on its retro old-school look of yesteryear. It maintains its distinct style of having all enemies and bullets in plain white color while the backgrounds have mostly plain colors and sterile textures consisting of simple lines. It’s all very simplistic and minimalistic, but it easily sparks the imagination and creates a captivating effect. On the whole, the visual presentation is very fresh and playful and is a joy to watch, especially if you have a soft spot for retro style graphics.
There are occasions when it’s hard to distinguish enemy bullets from the background – especially the laser beams, which look like white lines, exactly like the ones seen in the background patterns. This is no big deal though, because the laser shooting enemies are somewhat rare.

Sound

The sound effects follows the same minimalistic style as the visuals. There’s plenty of retro sounding bleeps and bloops – the original sounds from the 1978 game makes an appearance as well.
Together with these timeless and amusing sounds, the game has a quite mystic and dark soundtrack, typically coupled with a nice beat. There are some more cheery songs in there too and most of the soundtrack is really enjoyable. There are truly good melodies here and it goes perfectly with the game.

Summary

Space Invaders Infinity Gene offers an enjoyable and fun shoot ’em up experience. It has genuine challenge for new players and veteran gamers alike. Even though it has tons of levels to play through, you’ll start seeing the same stuff repeat itself halfway through. There is many different enemy attack wave patterns, but a few more wouldn’t have hurt. More enemy types would have been cool as well. This is a good game overall with lots of retro loving charm and the real time online ranking counter is super neat. This is definitely a welcome addition to the Space Invaders franchise but at the end of the day, there are better, deeper and more varied shooting games out there.

Developed By: Taito
Published By: Square Enix, Inc.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3
Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Players: 1
Also Available On: Xbox 360, Mobile
Released: 2010-09-15
Website: http://dlgames.square-enix.com/siig/

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