Review: Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Space Invaders Extreme was an interesting departure. . Space Invaders Infinity Gene completely changed the way I looked at the 30+ year-old arcade classic. I thought a simple injection of color and thumping techno were notable additions to the Space Invader scene, but Infinity Gene’s unique approach blew those simple augments out of the water. As the latest in a long line of ports from the iPhone/iPod Touch to XBLA and PSN services, this reimagining never ceases to keep things fresh with a minimalistic approach, existential quotes, and trance/synth tunes to keep you grooving all the way through each evolution of the original manifestation. Despite the fact that it turns what you know about Space Invaders on its head, it’s distinctly familiar and approachable. If this is the future of all arcade classics, then count me in.

In the beginning, you’re treated to a glossy facade of what you will believe to be the classic arcade mode of Space Invaders. Infinity Gene toys with you for a few moments before dissolving into something completely different. As you complete stages, the game will “evolve” into different genres with different enemies, looks, and different tactics required to fell them. These new elements are lovingly referred to as “evolutions,” and consist of power-ups, the ability to move in directions beyond left and right, and even the addition of lives to your repertoire. In essence, as you complete more and more stages, you’re rewarded with different upgrades that are meant to significantly improve your experience and aid you in the battles to come. In this, Space Invaders has successfully turned into something not unlike Ikaruga or something similar.

Power-ups include items that increase your rate of fire, shields that disintegrate some of the thousands of invaders onscreen at any given time (that’s an exaggeration, but really, there are PLENTY), and various other niceties that you’ll be more than grateful for as you work your way through each stage. It’s no cakewalk, but some of these items could be considered too powerful, especially by shooter purists or those looking for a challenge. You’ll find it here, but it seems to diminish as you work your way forward. That’s part of the game’s charm, finding out what’s going to come next.

The first few evolutions provide an engaging and interesting challenge — what are you going to find next? Unfortunately, this thrill does not last. In the later stages you’ll find yourself picking up unlockable music tracks or other insignificant items irrelevant to making progress within the game. And this trend does seem to last much of the way through. This does diminish some of the wonder that initially came from completing a level and moving forward, but the game is engaging enough in itself to keep you playing until the end.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene is a minimalistic delight that changes with each step forward. It’s completely beyond the bounds of what players of the original game are used to, and for that reason I found it to be an enormous step forward from Space Invaders Extreme, which dabbled in some spurious new concepts, but wasn’t brave enough to fully explore them. The mixture of classic gameplay interspersed with new-school mechanics is a curious mix and I’d like to see other classics given this treatment.  Perhaps a more “modern” Centipede or even a techno-infused Frogger in the future? Only time will tell. For now, you’d do well to pick up Space Invaders Infinity Gene; a worthy purchase indeed.

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