Spaces, Invaded

I am officially old enough that things I remember from my youth are starting to have “30th Anniversary Editions”, which isn’t really THAT bad and I promise not to get all depressed about it until stuff starts having “50th Anniversary Editions”

Anyway, 30 years ago… well, a bit more than 30 years, because I didn’t actually buy Space Invaders Extreme when it was released, I waited until the PSP version dropped to $10… 30 PLUS years ago, I remember playing Space Invaders and doing very poorly at it.  I specialized in shooting through my own shields, which I think we can all agree is a somewhat flawed strategy.

Space Invaders got supplanted by Pac-Man and Omega Race and Joust and Robotron 2084 before I stopped going to arcades, and honestly I didn’t feel a whole lot of nostalgia for it.  Picking up a 30th Anniversary Edition, cheap though it was, is something I can’t really explain.

It’s Space Invaders, for crying out loud.  Taito puts out a new version every five years or so, and people who actually HAVE nostalgia for the game buy it, and everyone’s happy.

As inexplicable as my purchase was, it turns out that it was a pretty decent choice.

Space Invaders Extreme is one part shooter, one part puzzle game, and about four parts Jeff Minter, though I don’t think he was actually involved with the handheld versions.  (He is doing visualizations for the upcoming Xbox Live version, though.)

If he wasn’t, it’s a hell of an homage to his style of taking a classic shooty type game, pumping up the gameplay with some over-the-top powerups, adding trance/technoesque music, and shovelling in a couple of wheelbarrow loads of particle effects.  Oh, and taking out the shields.

It doesn’t, however, have the soul-crushing difficulty curve of a genuine Minter game.  I say this because I was actually able to finish it, albeit on the easiest difficulty path and with LOTS of retries.

I have no shame when it comes to taking the coward’s way out.

Difficulty is handled in interesting fashion; a mix of adaptive difficulty and player choice.  Starting at the end of the second level, you’re given the choice of which of a couple of third levels you want to play, with varying difficulty levels, and you repeat the process after the third and fourth levels.  If I can believe everything I read, there are two possible third levels, three possible fourth levels, and four possible fifth levels, making a five level game into a total of eleven levels and mandating multiple playthroughs if one wishes to see everything.

To complicate matters, you can’t just pick the higher difficulty levels to see what they’re like; you have to earn them based on your performance.  If I were a completionist, I would be playing this game for a good long time.

I think we both know what the odds of that are.

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