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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Space invaders Extreme 2 (DS)

Space Invaders Extreme 2 for the Nintendo DS is much more than a hyper-nostalgia trip. While it bears some superficial resemblance to the classic game, this new updates adds so many layers as to feel almost completely new. Its thumping techno score, raved-up backgrounds and kinetic pacing are sure to please those gamers used to the likes of Geometry Wars. However, the classic shoot and dodge gameplay is very much evident and has been enhanced with bonuses, power-ups and additional modes that mean these new features are more than window-dressing.

Taito's first Space Invaders Extreme title was a textbook example of how to update a classic game successfully without losing its essential appeal. The newest installment continues the feel of this updated franchise with a similar look and play-mechanics. As in the first game, its basic parameters revolve around shooting waves of approaching invaders with your cannon. Its basic layout is the same, but there are many new elements that assault the player. The first thing that you'll notice is that the invaders no longer move in predictable patterns and instead can split their formations apart, move at different speeds and change directions. The smaller invaders can also shield themselves, which requires more shots to destroy them. In addition to dodging the smaller ones on the bottom screen, players will also have to look out for larger invaders at the top of the screen, some of which dance around deceptively and also take many shots to destroy. These are actually your main targets in this installment, and destroying all of them is what helps you clear the stage. While the invaders have been given some new weapons, the player isn't left defenseless against their renewed assault. There are numerous new weapons and upgrades that compliment standard shots including laser guns, cluster shots that wipe out entire rows of enemies and more extras. These are collected by shooting down the UFO's that still randomly appear at the top of the screen. All of these elements combine to create a much more intense shooting game than the original, and since it moves at a much faster pace, the game can be a little confusing at points. Your first impression is probably going to be that Space Invaders Extreme throws a lot of random enemies at you with no rhyme of reason. However, those who stand back a little and think about what's happening will discover some very definite patterns that emerge as you play through each level.

Once you've completed a stage by defeating the upper screen foes, things really begin to pick up in intensity. At this point, the game switches to Fever Time, where you zap through dozens of enemies at once, collecting tons of bonus points by collecting the golden bars they drop. This lets you collect a huge score bonus for the end of that stage. This addictive mode carries over from the first game, but there are now two more layers added. The first of these is called Bingo Chance, where you can complete a bingo card by shooting down colored-enemies in sequence. This is trickier than it sounds since you have to do this before the timer runs out. If you do this successfully, you'll then unlock Super Fever Time, which is like the original but with even more enemies to destroy. Finally, once you've completed destroying all the enemies on a stage, you'll face off against a massive boss character in a one-on-one battle that will take a lot of skill to defeat. This makes things a bit clearer and gives the game more sense in terms of progression. As you complete stages in the standard score mode, you'll be able to go back and select them later on and play them in other modes. Extreme 2 includes a new Time Attack mode, which gives you a new challenge where you have to clear a stage and try and beat the best time. The first stages are relatively easy to win, but things become progressively more difficult as you go deeper in, where mistakes are magnified and survival becomes increasingly tenuous as they attacks become more intense. Knowing when to use your power-ups and which ones are the most effective becomes more important at these incredibly fast later stages, so you'll need to use a lot more concentration and skill. The game also allows you to play with other gamers in battle or co-op mode using a wi-fi connection, which is a pretty cool idea that's been implemented nicely. It's multiplayer mode gives the game more depth and enhances its replay value significantly.

The game's presentation is solid in most departments and does an excellent job in creating an immersive experience. While the moving backgrounds can get annoying and distracting after awhile, these can be turned off. The game's visuals are very impressive and force a good compromise between the traditional Space Invaders look and more modern elements. One of the coolest parts of the game is its retro-chic, where even the larger enemies retain the original pixilated look of the 1978 original. As you'd expect the animations are a bit clunky by today's standards, but that's actually part of the game's charm. Using both screens can get annoying, but there are boundaries that make it easier to understand what's going on. As you might have guessed, the techno music soundtrack fits the game perfectly, with the primitive computer beats and music helping to get you into things. The fast BPM of its music isn't nearly as distracting as you think it might be and actually helps to keep you in the rhythm of the gameplay, complimenting and pacing the action. Overall, the game's aesthetics are excellent and strike an effective balance between old and new elements. Space Invaders Extreme 2 itself is a fine title, and one that should please veterans who've followed the franchise through the years and want to see the updates along with younger players who will probably find enough hooks and twists to keep them coming back for more.

- M. Palisano

Grade: B

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