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Review – Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Posted by on October 3rd, 2010 | 2 Comments | Tags: , , ,

Developer: TAITO/Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 14th | September 15th | September 16th
Availability: | |
Price: $9.99 | £7.99/€9.99 | ¥1200
Players: 1
Rating: Everyone | PEGI 3

What I liked:

  • Bumping soundtrack
  • Focused execution of the ‘evolution’ motif
  • Tons of unlocks = tons of content
  • RPG elements in a shmup? Yes, please.

What I disliked:

  • 3D is sometimes graphically confusing
  • Custom Music mode is only one song at a time

Space Invaders is an old name. A few years back, a PSP game was released with the Space Invaders name attached to it. Space Invaders Extreme was a fun portable release that added a strict focus on fast-paced, arcade style shoot-em upping to the series. TAITO and Square Enix partnered up yet again to release a new Space Invaders; a Space Invaders EVOLVED! Space Invaders Infinity Gene (heretofore referred to as SIIG) is a full-fledged downloadable title for the PSN and XBLA (it’s also available on those iThings, I think). SIIG does several things to separate itself from the swarm of other shmups that populate the digital game space.

When you first start it up, you’ll notice that each title screen is crowded with an impressive number of options and ways to play SIIG. Selecting “Start Game” will present you with 5 modes: Normal; Bonus; Challenge; Music; Collection. My advice is to start with Normal, as you’ll unlock upgrades that will be vital to play basically any of the other modes. When you start the game in Normal mode, you’ll play a very brief level based entirely on the original Space Invaders. The screen soon fades to white, and a quote fills the screen:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”
Charles Darwin

This is the game’s thesis, and it does everything it can to expand and defend it. Just about every aspect of the game evolves from the start to the end of your time playing it. Not only do the backgrounds sweeping underneath you get more graphically complex, but your ship, your enemies, and even the ways they attack get more and more ‘evolved’ the further you progress. Your enemies aren’t the only ones who get their guns up. You’ll be upgrading and outfitting your ship from stage 0.

The upgrading system is simple: Playing levels nets you gene points, which are equivalent to experience points, which fill up a bar at the end of each level. When the bar fills, the word “EVOLUTION” scrolls across the screen and a new ability is gained. While SIIG isn’t the first shmup to add RPG elements in the mix (Forgotten Worlds for Genesis had stores, and Armada for the Dreamcast had towns, shops, and other RPG elements), it does it well enough. Adding experience points and a level up system is always a plus. I’ve unlocked 8 weapons so far in getting to stage 5-3, and it seems like there are two more weapons slots open. The weapon selection adds some strategic element to the game, making for some fun, if sometimes way too easy, replayability of earlier levels. There are two more difficulty modes to get through: Hard, and Insane. Much to the game’s credit, I haven’t finished the Normal mode yet and I’ve been trying to get through the game all week.

The Music mode allows you to play SIIG to the accompaniment of a song stored on your HD. The level evolves along with the song somehow, in some ways I’m not really sure of. Even if the levels and enemies are completely randomly generated, at least you’re playing to one of your own tunes. That’s not to say, however, that the game’s soundtrack is lacking. To the contrary, SIIG boasts a bumpin’ techno/electronic soundtrack that works well with the old school chiptune sound effects that populate the game. Bonus mode just adds new levels to complete, and Challenge mode has 99 different, randomly generated levels to beat.

Initially, I wasn’t blown away by SIIG’s presentation. The bare-bones graphics (my roommate says the watchability is pretty low) and sound effects were almost enough to make me write it off as a run-of-the-mill shmup. However, the game quickly picks up its pace, granting you movement, weapon, and other upgrades according to how well you play. Most of the strides it takes are in the right direction. The game does misstep every now and again, but you’ll never find it falling flat on its face. The 3D levels and bosses are cool to look at, but playing them takes a bit of getting used to. In the end, SIIG is a game that takes a bit of time to get going, but I’m happy I stuck with it and let it evolve over and around me.