It seems as if the critical and commercial success of Space Invaders Extreme has emboldened Taito, giving them another reason to come back to the iconic series and continue to push it into new and interesting directions. Originally released on the iPhone, Space Invaders Infinity Gene is their latest attempt at diversity, which now makes its way onto PSN and Xbox Live Arcade.
So, just what makes this title different from Extreme? After all, that game was a breath of fresh air with its slick and modern take on a recognised classic from the dawn of popular videogames. The clues to the differences are in the title, but upon starting the game it’s fair to say that the player will think they’ve stumbled onto little more than a reject from Microsoft’s Game Room. And that wouldn’t be much fun at all…
Complete with iconic sound effects, the traditional monochrome layout appears only for the screen to dissolve and a quote from Charles Darwin appears. Just as the words “what the fu…�? start to form in their mouth, the player is thrown a rather large curveball as the screen goes black… before bursting into life again, accompanied by a Techno beat that even Jeff Mills would be proud of. It’s at this point Infinity Gene has really started and you’d best be ready.
Infinity Gene is split into individual stages which consist of different enemies. Naturally there’s the iconic Invaders which come in both mini and maxi versions, but there’s a whole smorgasbord of other enemy types to encounter. Wire frame leviathans in the shape of Squids and Crabs vie to rob the player of their lives with pods that release mini invaders, or spore bombs that trace across the screen, waiting for a shot to detonate themselves into small and deadly spheres. All of them help to create a glorious mix of chaos and fun.
The backgrounds can be just as hectic – one minute the senses will be assaulted by Number Station style sound effects that mix with full colour backgrounds, followed by a level with a more pared back, minimalistic look. It’s fair to say that variety is the spice of life within Infinity Gene’s evolutions.
With every stage cleared and conditions met, the player is taken to a summary screen where a breakdown of their score, Nagoya attacks, etc. are displayed. There’s also a “gene�? meter running along the bottom of this screen which, once filled, unlocks different items, or “evolutions�?. These can range from the ability to move freely around stages (instead of the traditional location at the bottom of the screen), through to different shot types, but the game is constantly changing its DNA, justifying its namesake.
Refreshingly for a download title there are no online modes which might only end up neglected anyway, leaving just the thrill of the scoreboards and the aim of climbing them, constantly trying to improve scores each time you attempt a fresh run. In this respect some might say it’s a missed opportunity that goes against the basic theme of evolution, but judging by the dearth of players currently found on Space Invaders Extreme, this seems like a shrewd decision by Taito.
The excellent Challenge Mode more than makes up for the absence of any online portion. Consisting of 99 stages, they start out gently but soon become increasingly devilish, with some wickedly inventive encounters which it would be wrong of this reviewer to spoil. Thankfully scaling this number of levels is made easier by being able to continue on any stage where you run out of credits, but that resets the score and robs the player of the exhilaration of advancing up the leaderboards.
The overriding feeling that pervades through Space Invaders Infinity Gene is one of being perfectly pitched, managing to feel fresh and that every new stage is a leap into the unknown. It might not change the face of gaming, but it certainly continues to re-invent the Space Invaders series and should be lauded for successfully taking it in new and interesting directions.