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Review: Space Invaders – Infinity Gene

It’s been around for largely around 31 years, and it’s still kicking around today – the mack daddy of gaming, Space Invaders is back in 2010 and it’s a drastically different experience than it was a those years ago. Infinity Gene – released towards the end of the last year on the iPod and iPhone – saw its release on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live mid-September. I’ve played both versions, so I’ll be bundling both into this one big, comprehensive review, so you can see whether or not it’s worth your dollar, and what you should get it for.

Now, as I’m writing, I haven’t upgraded to the latest iOS, and haven’t acquired the Apple Game Centre so I can’t comment on whether it will be compatible or not, and whether the OpenFeint achievements and high score charts will carry over to the new system. I put the blame down to the lack of owning a working laptop, meaning I can’t actually upgrade my iOS and access the new features of the system. I will be updating this review to later reflect this once I’m able to access the changes.

The game largely deals around the idea of evolution. It’s noticeable from the very get-go when you start Stage 0 – Common Descent, where you’re placed in the original Space Invaders, but are suddenly cut off mid-stage, introduced with a Charles Darwin quote, before finally going to Stage 1-1 and the game proper. From here on in, accumulated score milestones will unlock – or evolve – the game. While at the start it still feels like old Space Invaders, early on, the game completely changes upon unlocking Y-Axis movement. From that moment, given that freedom, I think that it opens up the game for so much more than what people maybe would have expected of the game. Even on loading screens and menu screens are all black and white throwbacks to the original with the scoring legend shown and all that, you expect it to behave the same as all those years ago and suddenly change is thrown at you almost immediately, with the change of basic movement also bringing a change of pace and strategy to the game. Enemies aren’t the usual block of invaders that gradually get faster the more of them you kill, they’re naturally fast, will come and go before you know it and will shoot. A lot. While I’m not entirely familiar with the 2D scrolling shooter genre of today (being more familiar with the originals that started the trend like Space Invaders, Galaga, 1942 and so on), I’m nearly tempted to say that this probably feels more in line with a bullet hell shooter than a classic.

On-screen action can get pretty hectic, and that vertical movement will certainly get its fair share of use, particularly in later stages when you’re being inundated with bullets from an almost endless wave of enemies.

Controls are pretty self-explanatory. Touch-screen, D-pad or left analog stick moves, A or X to fire, with the iPod version having an optional auto-fire option (it can be turned off and touching fires, but let’s be real, it’ll be that mad that taking your finger off the screen for any length of time past stage 2-1 will probably reward you with a swift demise).

The only other real difference in the two versions, is that the home consoles have more levels. That aside, both games are pretty much 1:1, with the same weapon types, same levels (up until the main iPod levels end at 3-6), both have a music-based level sculptor that generates levels based on music, both have a good amount of bonus levels, online score boards and achievements.

If I didn’t have either now, and had to choose one, I’d probably pick up the iPod version. While there’s less to it, and it is a bit cheaper, the quickness of the games lends itself better to the mobile platform than to its console big brother.

Developer: Square Enix / Taito Corp.Genre: Vertical shooter (I’d be tempted to call it a light version of a Bullet Hell style shooter, but I’d probably get a bashing from Cave fans)

Time: It entirely depends on how good you are at the game to be honest. You can play it in bitesize chunks and restart play from any level you’ve unlocked to that point – which is handy on the iPod – or you could go for a marathon run and get a few hours out of it in one shot. Online leaderboards are always a good incentive to keep coming back and keep trying.

Gripes: On the iPod, the only grip that I had was that my finger blocked the screen and made me miss seeing a few shots that eventually killed me a couple of times.

Get it for the: Nostalgia, yet strong feeling of being so different to its ancestors.

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