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Review

Review: Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Pew Pew Deluxe.

Technically I could review this game in one line: it’s great, just go and buy it. Unfortunately we have to spin rhetoric over a certain minimum number of words so here are the beans:

Space Invaders Infinity Gene is a 21st century remake of Taito Corporation’s true classic, Space Invaders. Those of us old enough to remember going into the pub and putting 10p in those top-down machines with old-school CRT monitors rounder than a well-lubricated sphere will no doubt have fond memories (I was -1 years old so what I just wrote is a lie).

Retro games on PSN and XBLA have made me nervous lately. I’m not a fan of most of them, and I suspect like most of us, each time I buy one I curse myself for not learning from previous mistakes. Infinity Gene is published by Square Enix, recently responsible for the epicly bad Thexder Neo. Fear not, however, because Infinity Gene is a modern remake of a cult classic at its very best.

Last year saw the rather good Space Invaders Extreme of which this is the sequel. Sadly it was only available on XBLA – PlayStation 3 owners can now rejoice as Infinity Gene is available on both platforms.

First, this game is huge on style: it’s almost entirely black and white with a mono-spaced font (yes you read that correctly, that is stylish), and old school music. However everything has been renovated; it is in one way completely faithful to the original, yet in another way it raises the bar massively and kicks it into 2010 with great success – which is a good thing, because if it was faithful to the original, it would be Capcom Classics, which was rubbish.

For example, the backgrounds are in cool 3D wireframe, sometimes quite deliberately aliased awfully with 2-frame animation just like in the 80s, other times they are smooth with many polygons and beautifully animated, throwing in tinges of colour. Some enemies are blocky 2D sprites, others are 3D masterpieces. Gameplay is usually in the traditional top-down view but you will sometimes find yourself flying into tunnels, other times there will be a mix of 2D and 3D baddies on screen simultaneously while your ship moves in 2D, which actually works really well. Only the power-ups are coloured, and while there is occasional confusion on what you can and can’t touch, this is a minor problem compared to other recent retro titles, with the shade of grey usually indicating quite clearly if something is in the foreground or background.

The effects are also oozing with style: collect a power-up and a simple rectangle expands to show you have collected it. Shoot an enemy and it disappears with a single-frame white circle explosion. The backgrounds are really trippy at times, and the sound effects match up too, with classic animation and explosion sounds mixed in with more modern effects.

Onto the meat of the game then, and be warned: if you play for only 5 minutes, you will be convinced it is awful. The first level is the classic wave of space invaders with a ship that fires slowly and only moves left and right. At this point alarm bells were ringing in my mind, but the scene cuts away after a few seconds to the real game, which rapidly becomes fast and frenetic with weapons of mass devestation, fast-moving ships and enemies, mini-bosses and full-on boss battles coming thick and fast. There is plenty of variety in the baddies and the bosses are for the most part well-designed.

The game is almost as well-balanced as Soldner X 2 for difficulty, and with your choice of starting weapon and difficulty level, you can make the game as easy or hard as you want. The difficulty curve increases gradually and starts to get really tricky around the early level 20s. Infinity Gene is also brimming with game modes: the main campaign consists of 31 levels, there is a bonus mode with numerous extra levels you unlock as you play through the campaign, a challenge mode with 99 randomly generated levels, and my personal favourite: music mode.

In music mode, you choose a song from your own collection and the game generates a level based upon it, somewhat synchronized to the music. The brilliance of this is that you always get exactly the same level for a particular song. Testing with trance, dance and even Lily Allen all worked flawlessly and the levels were interesting and varied.

Infinity Gene has the one-more-go factor in a two-pronged way: not only do you always want to see what comes next, but as you reach certain point threshold the game triggers ‘Evolution’, each time adding something to the game. Initially this is very basic stuff like being able to move up and down, collect power-ups or execute Nagoya attacks (a handy bullet-dodging technique which makes the game a little bit more forgiving), but as you progress you’ll unlock new weapons, levels, difficulty levels, music and game options such as number of starting lives. Multiple playthroughs are required to reach every stage of Evolution, but you’ll be fine with this because once you unlock the fearsome Field weapon you’ll definitely want to go back and rack up a huge high score – and you’ll need to in order to beat some of the rather difficult trophies on offer. Another nice touch which keeps you playing is that your online rank is shown in real-time as you play, and it’s satisfying to see this ticking down as you plaster the hordes of enemies.

What are the downsides? Well apart from the occasional confusion about what is in the foreground and the fact the campaign will only take you 3-5 hours to complete, there are a few bugs. After the first time I switched the game off and re-loaded it, none of my high scores registered on the stats screens or leaderboards. The leaderboards only have My Score and Global – no Friends option which really kills your ability to compete. There is also a potentially serious issue unique to this game: it may actually hurt your eyes. The game has many fast-moving backgrounds with extreme contrast and I did actually have to break because of eyestrain once or twice. It is not an exaggeration to say that if you have epilepsy (as I do) I would strongly advise against a purchase unless your medications are working.

Pros:

  • Massive style which is matched by substance
  • Tons of replayability for fans of unlockables
  • Lots of game modes, with music mode being particularly fun

Cons:

  • No friends leaderboard
  • No replayability if you’re not a fan of unlockables
  • May cause eyestrain in some players

Space Invaders Infinity Gene is not just the best re-creation of Space Invaders I have played, it is also one of my favourite downloadable titles of 2010. This is an absolute no-brainer recommendation to anyone who played the game or its clones in the ’80s, and for anyone who hasn’t played it, you will enjoy a very quirky and unusual top-down shooter.

Score: 9/10

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23 Comments
  1. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    This game ranks up there alongside Super Stardust HD & Flower as the very best on the PSN Store for me. It’s a shame it got buried under all the Move content and excitement.

    A true classic, with a fantastic graphic style (looks better when you’re playing it to the stills above)

    Great review. Awesome game!

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 16:05.
    • Hoopiness
      Member
      Since: Sep 2009

      Might pick this up then. Loved SSHD and Flower was enjoyable.

      Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:58.
  2. Tanzil
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    I played the demo and was very impressed. it was a lot of fun. nice review. reminded me of Rez.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 16:17.
  3. colossalblue
    Team TSA: Editor
    Since: Forever

    Played about twenty minutes the other night as I was fighting the need to fall asleep and it seemed amazing. PacMan CE was in a similar vein and I think there’s a new one of those planned too. Really well done retro remakes/reboots.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 16:21.
  4. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i suck as those bullet hell games, though i did like thunderforce 4 for the megadrive, had to cheat to finish it but it was fun. :)

    anyway, tried the demo, not bad but not high on my list, maybe if they do a special offer i might be tempted.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 16:38.
  5. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    It’s a great update of the game, i bought it but i’m finding it a bit hard in places.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:00.
    • DJ-Katy
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      Switch down to easy til you unlock the Field weapon, then go back and plaster it on normal or whichever you were playing before.

      Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:04.
      • TSBonyman
        Member
        Since: Dec 2009

        Thanks Katy, i’ll try that.

        Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 21:41.
  6. eirekun
    Member
    Since: Sep 2009

    Cheers Katy for the great review! Your reviews have led me to getting more than a few games and I’ve always enjoyed them. This time round I had this game & it’s great, I’m half-useless at it (can’t get by level 3) but I don’t care as it’s so enjoyable!

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:16.
  7. shields_t
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Top review Katy, I must admit I fell completely into the category of “tried it for 5 mins and dismissed it”. I might pick it up tonight based on the recommendation though, the music mode sounds top.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:35.
    • DJ-Katy
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      The menus and the first level are awful, but it is meant to be like that. Probably not the best choice of interface for a demo. Persevere, it gets good after a few levels.

      Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:43.
  8. superjag86
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    Hey DJ-Katy, great review.
    I was wondering whether you’ve played the iPhone version, which is awesome too. Do you know if the PSN version is a port or if it has new levels?

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:39.
    • DJ-Katy
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      I have an Android phone so no. There is stage 0 and stages 1-1 through 5-6 on campaign, 01-99 on challenge, and blocks of 6 on the bonus levels. That should give you an idea if the levels have been added or not?

      Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 17:44.
      • superjag86
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        The iPhone version has the main stages going up to 3-6 only plus 5 challenge levels so there is definitely much more content then!
        Thanks for letting me know :)

        Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 18:01.
  9. moshi
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I found the 1st 5 mins quite charming in a old skool way before it blends into the new stylish way

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 18:04.
  10. Deathbrin
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Thanks for the review, thought it was some rubbish clone. Tbh i would rather prefer the more classic Space Invaders, i hope it doesn’t get too crazy or unplayable after a ten-or-so upgrades.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2010 at 18:07.

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