Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Space Invaders Get Even: This time they mean business

(originally written for Gamerblag)

Most of us know about the attempted invasion thirty years ago, and how the Core Cannon - humanity's greatest hope back then - successfully fended off the threat of UFOs and pixellated aliens. Victory against the Space Invaders means peace for humanity right? Wrong.

Three decades have passed, and humans being humans, started to fight amongst themselves over the Core Cannon, the weapon that was supposed to bring peace to the world. Seeing that the Earthlings are too busy bombing each other to notice any alien threat, the embittered Space Invaders have started plotting their revenge. Now with better planning and attack formations, Taito's Space Invaders are back...and this time no bunker will save anything who gets in their way.

Invade You

Thirty years ago, the only thing that came between the Space Invaders and the conquest of humanity is a lone Core Cannon, and a handful of bunkers. Now, Earth technology has vastly improved, and humans now have a lot of high-tech and agile weaponry to shoot you down with, such as helicopters, tanks, laser turrets, even destroyer ships and huge robots. Well, nobody said anything about invading being an easy job.

For every mission, you are given only a limited amount of time to fulfill mission objectives and carve up a path of destruction as you go along. Swift, decisive attacks naturally are keys to a successful invasion, and fortunately for you, leading the invasion isn't all that complicated. Any form of micromanagement is absent in the game - all it takes to take over the world is just the UFO, a massive invader army, and some well-coordinated attacks.

Time to get even

You take command of the UFO, as well as the hundred-strong Invader army standing by at your disposal. In lieu of weapons or firearms, your Invader army itself serves as a shape-shifting weapon whose form depends on any of the five attack formations they assume: Shot, Homing, Burst, Drill, and Hopping.

The attacks are pretty much self-explanatory: Shot launches Invaders units straight towards the enemy, Burst drops massive Invader-bombs at a specified target, Drill lets Invaders arrange themselves into a drill to inflict continuous damage, etc.

Aside from the five attack formations, there are no other weapons up your arsenal with the exception of the Special Move, a massive laser beam. This particular lack of weapon variety is actually a good thing, since it grants an intuitive control scheme that lets you switch between attack types without much thought. This is a very important thing considering that a lot of your attention will be concentrated on dodging a plethora of projectiles in any given second.

There are practically two things to watch out for when carrying out an invasion aside from the enemies: time and number of units available.

While its tempting to just dawdle along destroying buildings and delivering 8-bit pixel justice to just about any enemy unit you see in-game, you must keep in mind that your time is limited, and you need to accomplish your mission chop-chop. However, invaders are given a certain number of seconds for each building and enemy unit destroyed, so you can also opt to delay your mission and destroy anything in sight provided that you're fast enough.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your alloted time will be diminished if you take hits. The stronger the enemy weapon that manages to hit the UFO, the more seconds that will be taken out of your counter. You will also lose some of your Invader units for every hit taken, so be careful. You can always replenish your army by waving your Wiimote and Nunchuk up and down, but doing so will leave the UFO open to further attacks.

Cute Invaders are cute indeed

One of the first few things that players will notice upon booting the game is that Space Invaders Get Even doesn't take itself too seriously. From the campy Star Wars-like intro to the cheesy victory shouts of "Victory for humanity!" whenever the Invaders are shot down, it's pretty obvious that the game is a self-parody of the entire Space Invaders franchise, albeit a well-made one.

Those familiar with the Katamari series of games will undoubtedly experience a bout of nostalgia while playing Space Invaders Get Even. Aside from the obvious similarities, such as alloting only a limited length time for every mission (as well as the timer itself) and the cute protagonists, the game exudes the same aura of bizarre, yet brutal cuteness. This eerie semblance is especially noticeable when you hear screams while your obedient Invaders cheerfully level buildings and destroy your enemies.

Another Katamari-ish touch to the game is the beaming up of cows for research purposes. We're not sure what goes on in the alien research facility, but 15 seconds are added whenever the UFO acquires a cow. For some reason, cows in Space Invaders Get Even find themselves wandering in the unlikeliest of places possible, such as in the middle of a weapons facility, or floating in the middle of the ocean wearing inflatable rings.

Adding a layer of campiness are the comic book-style text sound effects (like "DOOOOOM") whenever the Invaders bomb down buildings, as well as the brilliant voiceovers that can be heard as Invaders intercept the human's radio transmissions.

Eavesdropping on your enemies' messages to each other reveals a rainbow of personalities behind every bunker, helicopter, or pretty much any structure that you destroy. There are the annoying, cocky pilots, hopeful and naive operators, stalwart commanders, and civilians who tend to be vocal about having their cows stolen.


Space Invaders Get Even is actually one of the better WiiWare purchases available in the current selection. However, the entire package is offered piecemeal: one can get the starter pack for 500 Wii Points, while additional stages can be attained by buying the three other stage packs also worth 500 Wii Points each.

Compared to the add-on packs, which contain two levels (each level has two areas and a boss fight each), the starter pack only contains one, giving off the impression that paying for the starter pack is akin to paying for a demo. While this may be true to some extent, one must consider that the game's overall price - 2000 Wii Points for the starter pack and all add-on packs combined - as a steal. As it stands, Space Invaders Get Even offers a lot of bang for the buck compared to...say, My Horse and Me.

How can I invade you?

After beating all the stages, accomplishing all missions, collecting all hidden items as well as beaming up all the cows, what then?

Taito came up with a scheme that assures its replay factor for at least a few weeks to a couple of months: global rankings. Players can upload their scores and compare them with the best players from around the world, and those who want to beat the highest score would have to resort to playing the game again and again, similar to its sister flash game Space Invaders World War.

Global rankings are good, but its better if the game offered a hard mode instead to those who've finished it. In any case, there's always a possibility that Taito and Square Enix would offer additional stage packs or more unlockable items for Space Invaders Get Even, so who knows.

All things considered, Taito and Square Enix managed to come up with a solidly built title that more than gives justice to a time-honored IP. However, the general opinion towards Space Invaders Get Even is marred by its microtransaction business model (thank you, Square Enix), but it shouldn't deter most people from getting the entire deal.