First contact occurred November 22nd, 1978, and just when you thought the skies were safe again, those ill-tempered Space Invaders are back after a twenty year layoff. That's right, Z-Axis has teamed up with Activision to bring back the space shooter of all space shooters, Space Invaders. The classic 2D gameplay is the same, but there's plenty added to this package. Polygonal graphics and 3D effects, 100 episode-based levels, 14 new and old alien invaders, all new boss ships, a color-based power-up system, new weapons and upgrades and two player co-op and competitive modes. It's Space Invaders in the 90's, so let's get ready to blast some aliens again!
"It was 1957 when humanity made its first attempts into space. The goal was both grand and simple: to go beyond the known world into the unknown. In 1978, the unknown came to us... First Contact occurred November 22nd, 1978. There were no little green men armed though, instead there were attack ships, hordes of them. The fighting was fierce. They exhibited unnerving discipline. Wave after wave of tight-knit squads dropped on us with steady, malevolent intentions.
Initially, it seemed more than likely we would be overrun by the alien arsenal of powerful technology. If not for the capabilities of a then secret, experimental Tank, Earth would have surely fallen. Our victory was hard won, countless scores of courageous Tank pilots sacrificed their lives for the cause.
Based on wreckage recovered from the destroyed invaders, designs were begun on a new defensive unit. It took billions of dollars and decades to learn to use this new technology. A new Tank was born complete with hover capability, multi-adaptive hard-points, and an electromagnetic shielding system powered by a nuclear core. More than twenty years later, the aliens have yet to return. Most people hope and pray they never will. If they do, we should be ready...."
The time has come once again, for you to defend the Earth from these relentless, evil Space Invaders. You've been chosen to complete a series of missions to destroy the aliens once and for all. Space Invaders is based on a series of episodes, where you'll travel to different planets in search of the enemy boss. You begin on Pluto (followed by Neptune, etc., all the way down to Earth), and the goal is to complete all 10 missions on each planet in order to face off against the boss. Complete all 8 planets and Earth will once again be saved from these diabolical creatures. Sound simple enough? Well, this isn't 1978 anymore.
The Space Invaders have learned a thing or two in the past twenty years, so don't expect them to go quietly. In the original Space Invaders, the alien's technique was simple enough; line up in easy-to-shoot down formation and slowly advance down towards the ground. The less invaders were left, the faster they would descent. In this latest remake, the aliens aren't going to fall for the same tricks... sorta. While they still line up in the same patterns, they've got a few new weapons and ships to show off. For example, the Freezer (found on Jupiter) fires a ray of ice and has the ability to descend down to the ground for easy attacks on the Tank. Other ships sport shields and other abilities, including the Splitter which splits into 4-5 pieces when hit. The pieces scatter and explode upon impact. Unfortunately, there's really one special enemy ship per planet, so once you've mastered how to defeat that enemy ship, you should be able to advance quite easily. I would have liked to have seen a number of special ships per episode, rather than just one. At the end of each episode, you'll face off against an enemy boss. There are ten enemy bosses in total and each is unique and difficult it's in own respect. Z-Axis did a great job adding these ships in to bring a little variety to the gameplay.
Besides the new enemy ships, there are tons of new weapons and power-ups featured in Space Invaders. Just like in the original, mother ships fly above the alien crafts and when shot down, they drop little 'gadgets' that you can use against the rest of the alien ships. Some of the special weapons include horizontal and vertical rays, acid clouds, smart bombs, shields, double shot power-ups and much more. The game also features the classic blockades which you can hide behind when bombarded by enemy fire.
The graphics in Space Invaders are obviously much improved. While Z-Axis choose to use the classic 2D gameplay style, they added in 3D effects and polygonal graphics to give the game a little spice. While I would have liked to have seen more variety in the environments on each planet, the amount of color and variety in the enemy ships was very satisfying. The Space Invaders are now fully animated and turn in all directions. For added effect, some of them also fly towards the camera before lining up above the player's tank for invasion. Unfortunately, Space Invaders doesn't offer a whole lot in terms of audio. While the game is full of the usual special effects (ships blowing up, laser fire, etc.), the game features no speech at all. It would have been an added bonus if the mission introductions featured some kind of speech to it. There's a sound track for each episode, but I really didn't notice the music a great deal compared to the sound effects. There's also an introductory movie that begins the game, but that didn't feature much in terms of audio either.
If you're looking for some multiplayer gaming, Space Invaders does offer both co-operative and competitive two-player modes, but only on the same machine. There is support for Internet play, which is essential these days. In terms of control, Space Invaders is a very simple game to install and begin playing. You can use your keyboard or gamepad to play and setting either up is not hard at all.
Activision and Z-Axis attempted to bring up-to-date, a simple but exciting space shooter, without sacrificing the original Space Invaders gameplay. Did they do a good job of that? They certainly did. They've improved the amount and quality of gameplay quite a bit, although the lack of multiplayer features really effects the replay value considerably. The graphics, while not stellar, have been upgraded nicely and adds spice to a classic game. Unfortunately, the audio department could use a little spice itself. Overall, Z-Axis and Activision have done a fine job and I think they'll be a lot of retro-gamers adding this updated classic to their collection.
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