Space Invaders is one of the oldest video game series in existence. Turning 43 this year, it’s almost old enough for a midlife crisis (so expect some Space Invaders games with sports cars and a new girlfriend in the years ahead), so it’s quite fitting that Space Invaders Forever is all about reliving its glory days with a collection of three older titles. Despite coming from the same franchise, they’re all wildly different in style, although admittedly one of them has another classic game mixed in with it. They’re also significantly different to the classic experience.
First up is Space Invaders Extreme, which might be more than a decade old, but has been updated for Forever with improved graphics and a new soundtrack. If you’re not familiar, Extreme is Space Invaders with everything turned up to 11. You’re still shooting up at invaders that are moving down the screen towards you, but now you can grab power-ups like lasers and multishots, enemies can have shields or deflectors, and there are boss battles against unreasonably large invaders. You can also trigger bonus rounds where you can earn yourself an extended powerup like a laser, which is always effective.
It’s great fun, not least because it’s so fast, but those moments when you grab a laser and wipe out a full screen of enemies feels like you’re finding order in all the chaos, and it’s immensely satisfying. It’s also got a score system, so you can compete on the leaderboards with other players and the Arcade mode even seems to have different endings based on how well you play.
Next up is the absurdly titled Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE, which the game tells us was the first Space Invaders to ever feature multiplayer. Now you can battle off an extra-large force of space invaders with three of your friends in local multiplayer. Gigamax is easily the most retro styled of the three games in the collection, featuring simpler graphics to the point where it seems like it’s just old school Space Invaders, right up until you clear the screen and all the invaders start getting inventive. They start roam around the screen in random directions and at speed, they take three hits to die and grow in size each time they get hit, huge bosses swoop in and get all uppity that you’re killing their soldiers.
Thankfully you have some tricks yourselves. If all players join together by touching their cannons – simmer down at the back, there! – you can fire more powerful shots, which comes in very useful against the huge bosses. I haven’t played as much of this one as whilst it seems great for multiplayer, it’s a bit of a tall order to finish on your own. The multiplayer is purely local, but right now isn’t exactly the best time for inviting people round for some space invading.
Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders is easily the strangest of the three games, but it’s also my favourite. You see, somehow Space Invaders have found their way into the Arkanoid universe, so naturally as an inhabitant of the Arkanoid universe you have to do what you do best to defend your space from them. There are a few surprises awaiting you on your first go, such as using your paddle to deflect the invaders’ bullets back at them and that the invaders have managed to harness a load of bricks to defend themselves, but perhaps the biggest shock is that you’re playing the whole game with the DualShock 4’s touchpad! It’s obvious once you learn that this was a mobile game.
Your paddle doesn’t just move left and right, it can move up and down in its limited area at the bottom of the screen, correlating to wherever your finger is on the touchpad. It takes a little while to get used to, even if it’s mainly overcoming the shock of using the touchpad for anything other than opening a menu, but after a while it starts to feel more natural.
I found myself enjoying certain moves that the game gives you, such as how moving your paddle upwards into an oncoming bullet will send it directly up, which is useful for getting enemies that are in tight areas without hitting the walls. It isn’t perfect, as you can remove your finger orthumb from the touchpad, put it back down somewhere else and the paddle immediately jumps to that point on the screen – it just feels the tiniest bit like cheating – but it’s good. The game also has tonnes of levels, different characters to play as who have different abilities, and a silly, but occasionally amusing story in the background.