At this stage in my life, I’m a busy motherfucker. I love The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as much as anyone, but the next time I’m likely to find the time for a play-through, I’ll be about to slap the taste out of my first grandchild’s mouth for rolling his eyes at my NES because “it needs a screen and controllers to play.”
The result of this is that I find myself engaged in an endless hunt for the perfect pick up and go game. Perfect meaning something I can turn on, play the shit out of, and then turn off whenever I want. No prerequisite of patience, save points, walking around to different places to buy weapons and shit, no clicking through dialog, etc. Just some sort shit on screen that I can move around and use to do shit to other shit. And of course a high score. Over the years I’ve really enjoyed stuff like Centipede, Geometry Wars, Tempest, Popeye, Defender II, Gyruss, half the 2600 library and almost anything on the Vectrex… I love these kinds of games because they all get me into that ballpark.
When it comes to most people, one game in particular tends to sit at the top of that sort of list: Space Invaders. It has seen more reboots, rehashes, re-releases and ports than the rest, maybe combined, and rightfully so. One of the most important games ever made, it helped define the shooter genre and really, video games in general.
Space Invaders can kiss my dead rotting asshole. I hate it so much.
If I was driving and I saw it crossing the road, I’d swerve and try to get it with at least two tires. It’s slow as shit. Your cannon either looks like a teepee, or a flat ass with a turd coming out of it. When I play it, I feel like I’m trying to run under water while being slapped in the face with a rubber cock. It’s like a bad dream where you’re trying to kick someone’s ass and they, instead, kick your ass. Then when you wake up you can’t even set things straight, because its against the goddamn law to just go out and kick someone’s ass to make yourself feel better. Also, if you’re this into video games, you might not be able to kick anyone’s ass in the first place.
The only version of this game I had ever previously enjoyed playing was Y*A*S*I (‘Yet Another Space Invaders‘) from Alex Herbert, a homebrew for the Vectrex. The game fits the system like a glove, and the slick code trickery going on to get the screen to display raster style graphics is a huge bonus if you’re a nerdy asshole like me. I’m not really sure the game was much different than the original in a technical sense; it was just the overall experience that worked. That’s the Vectrex for you.
Anyway, a few months back my shitty, belligerent attitude changed. My heart had grown ten sizes like that green guy from that one thing.
Hiding in Plain Sight (actually it was in a drawer)
The boring ass story goes like this: I had picked up a stack of random PSP games from a game store I worked at back in 2015, and included was a copy of Space Invaders Extreme. At some point I finally popped it in for shits and giggles, and…
The best way to describe this game is to simply profess my undying, sexual love, dip it in Crisco, and then get weird on Instagram.
The best way to describe this game is this: it is the champion of modern ‘old school’ arcade titles. The entire presentation is gilded with the crust of eternal joy, delivering a visual model that engages you in complete symbiosis with the ridiculously smooth flow of the action. Powerups, a large number of ways to score, variations on the gameplay as you transition through and in between levels (not to mention the great transitions themselves), an electronic soundtrack that feels both modern and classic, a save implementation that doesn’t chain you down, and a very thoughtful array of settings. Basically: the works.
Everything I ever hated about the game was gone, all alongside a long list of smart additions. People talk about balance in gameplay, but forget that overall balance is important as well. Taito really hit a home run in that department, and with a cash grab reboot, too. High five. A few more like this and we may be able to forgive you for Dino Rex.
Critiques, Ports and a Peripheral
Criticism of Space Invaders Extreme has been minimal, which is unfortunate because I get off on pointing out other reviewer’s shortcomings. The biggest mumblings seem to come from purists who want any and all iterations of the game to be a direct arcade port of the original. Besides that there’s a lot of chatter about the flashy background animations, but you can shut that off in the settings if you find yourself having seizures during play. Personally, I love them.
IGN gave it a 9/10, which… well, nobody cares. They’re like the Kotaku of shitty video game sites.
See what I did there?
The Nintendo DS got the game as well, including a sequel. Additionally, an HD remake for the Xbox Live Arcade was spawned and tossed together by Backbone Entertainment (featuring new visualizations from Jeff Minter of Tempest 2000 and Space Giraffe). The Xbox Live version is fantastic and great for couch multiplayer, but I won’t get into it here for fear of a painful erection that will last more than 4 hours.
Of the portable versions, I personally prefer the PSP to the DS, as the crisper display works better for this graphical style and the dual screen setup seems more of a distraction than anything (not that I don’t dig it for other games). There are a bunch of other things that were tweaked one way or the other for each port, including music, screen aspect specific stuff, etc. None of it a big deal for me. The DS does have a pretty cool looking paddle controller attachment that works with it, but I haven’t had a chance to try one. Looks like you might be able to stick it up your ass and play by swiveling. Always with the innovation on those Nintendo machines.
Another thing to note is that the networking options differ pretty drastically between the PSP and DS versions. Seeing as how I don’t give a rat’s ass about those features, I’ll let Google do the rest of my job for me.
In the end, this is just a buttery biscuit of a game, and I’d find it very hard to believe that any fan of old school gaming could walk away from it unsatisfied. In a world where the mainstream video game market seems intent on publishing nothing but 200+ hour epics or FPS clones, titles like this are something to be thankful for. Alongside games like Spelunky, Geometry Wars: Evolved, Towerfall Ascension, and Overcooked, it keeps me reaching for newer controllers now and again.
By Gamesman Anus