Space Invaders gets another techno-psychedelic makeover, and it's at least as much fun as the first time around. Some players may have overdosed already, but if not, Extreme 2 adds more ways of scoring massive bonus points and a time-attack mode that strips the game down into something a bit more focused. The graphics and sound, of course, are a riot, an interactive rave lightshow with echoes of Sega's classic Rez.
- Stylish graphics and addictive music
- Lots of clever variations on a simple gameplay concept
- Multiplayer isn't as exciting as the solo mode in some ways
- Not too many new features compared to the original Extreme
There’s an argument to be made that we didn’t really need another Space Invaders Extreme all that badly. Taito has a pretty impressive catalog of retro classics, and many of them remain as yet unrevived. Why not lay the Extreme treatment on something a little less well-known? Maybe Darius Extreme, or Bubble Bobble Extreme, or Elevator Action Extreme…
If the first one wasn’t enough for you, though, the sequel is at least as well-made, and that’s saying something. It finds a few more ways to spin the basic concept of aliens inexorably marching down the screen, while the style is as engaging as ever, a 30-year-old game given a super-cool modern makeover.
The Beat Goes On
Sega’s Rez makes a useful comparison when it comes to describing the Extreme experience. They’re both fairly simple shooters at the heart of it, but elevated through ingenious presentation, graphics, and sound. Just as in Rez, the music here beats in time with the gameplay – each sound effect, every cannon zap and exploding invader, comes out with just enough of a miniscule delay so it makes the perfect complement to the beat.
That’s not to say the game system doesn’t have its share of new wrinkles as well, though. On the surface, it plays more or less like classic Space Invaders: a phalanx of pixelated aliens marches down the screen, and you control a little cannon that scoots back and forth to take them out. Beneath the surface, there’s a big difference between simply staying alive and racking up a killer high score.
Extreme 2 features the same kind of special weapons and weird breeds of Invader that showed up in the first game. There aren’t any new weapons in the sequel, but the old ones are still great fun –nothing like using the laser power-up to wipe a whole wave off the screen – and the Invaders have a few new tricks this time, especially in boss encounters.
I’ve Got the Fever
Where the sequel really starts to pull off some clever new tricks is in the bonus modes, like “Fever Time.” Fever works the way it did in the original Extreme – rack up a chain of kills, take out a bonus UFO that flies across the top of the touch screen, and the top DS screen opens up with a new set of enemies to deal with. Take all those out (while staying alive down there on the touch screen) and Fever Time commences, where every kill within the time limit drops a big whack of bonus-point medals.
Besides completely new patterns of enemies for the top-screen Fever Time rounds, Extreme 2 adds another layer of bonus challenges to unlock. If you make it through Fever Time, that now triggers a B-I-N-G-O game on the top screen. Grab a series of color-coded weapon power-ups in the correct order – represented by the colors of the squares on the Bingo board – and that kicks off Super Fever Time, where the rewards for every kill are even bigger and the amped-up music is extra catchy.
Players who don’t want to deal with the bonus modes too much can now play the solo campaign in a time attack mode, as opposed to the default score attack. Time attack makes clearing waves of invaders at high speed the goal, so all the bingo/fever/whatever features aren’t quite so important. The result is a game with all the new-school graphics and sound, but a bit more of an old-school feel as far as how it plays.
The head-to-head multiplayer game hasn’t changed much in Extreme 2. Like the original Extreme, it begins with some good basic ideas – Neo Geo cultists should recognize some traces of the addictive puzzle-shooter hybrid Twinkle Star Sprites. Nailing special UFO targets and grabbing power-ups in the right combo sequence will send more invaders marching down your opponent’s screen (or change the ones they’re already facing to a more deadly model).
As before, the online game isn’t bad, but playing it reveals just how much the catchy music and wild graphics do for the single-player mode. Despite the new weapons and other additions, it still isn’t as much fun without the crazy techno lightshow in the background. Head-to-head games aren’t as fast-paced as the solo campaign, either – they’re much closer to the staid, deliberate speed of traditional Space Invaders.
Now That’s Extreme
In case you haven’t already gotten that impression, this isn’t a huge leap ahead of the original Space Invaders Extreme. True, it has new music, new enemy wave designs, and some interesting changes to the Extreme gameplay system, but anyone who played its predecessor is still going to find it pretty familiar.
Nevertheless, that makes it an improvement on what was already a very good game. Die-hard fans of the original should pick it up for even more thumb-busting challenge, and if you’ve only ever played the old-school Space Invaders before, you’ll never believe what 30 years have managed to do for it.