Title :Space Invaders
Platforms :Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64
Publisher :PSX
Game Rating :8.6
Review by :Ken Gagne

In 1965, mankind went into space. 

In 1978, space came to us. 

The aliens caught the world governments (and quarter-laden teenagers everywhere) by surprise. Our sole defense was the Tank, a clumsy cannon piloted by only the most skilled individuals. The invaders were defeated, and the Tank has been steadily upgraded for the past twenty years, in preparation for their return. 

Activision's release of Space Invaders marks their return, this time for Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. [PSX version reviewed here] 

The new Space Invaders is based on the arcade game of the Seventies, though with gameplay and graphics befitting the modern market. Like the arcade game Space Invaders '91, Activision's new title features new aliens, new weapons, and new worlds. 

There are ten planets: Pluto through Mercury, plus the alien homeworld. Ten waves of enemy spacecraft, a bonus round, and a boss compose a world. Each world is populated by four standard types of alien, plus a race unique to that world. The aliens each have their own offensive and defensive capabilities, and grant the player different power-ups. When four like aliens are defeated in a row, the player earns one charge of a special weapon. These armaments are key to plowing through the enemy hordes as quickly as possible. 

The graphics are more detailed than they were in 1978, though still unspectacular. Colorful alien sprites float and bounce across the screen, and explode neatly when hit. The backgrounds, perhaps so as to not distract the player, are mundane: there is little movement, or uniqueness from planet to planet (save for the alien homeworld). 

The soundtrack and sound effects are also indistinct. The music is uncomplicated, the sound effects standard. Unlike Asteroids (another PlayStation game from Activision), there is no digitized speech introducing each mission, only a computer readout of the enemy specifications. 

Also unlike the new Asteroids, Invaders' controls are simple. Move left, move right; primary weapon, special weapon. Both analog and digital pads function, though true analog movement is not supported. 

Despite the game's simple attributes — or perhaps because of them — Space Invaders is fun! There are no complicated goals or storylines, just plain old aim-and-fire action to test your timing and reflexes. Activision's once again bent the rule of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 

The game's challenge and various modes of play help extend the replay value. There are three difficulty settings (Normal, Expert, and Maniacal); in each the game moves more quickly and the enemies more smartly. Though the easiest setting can be played through in under an hour, Maniacal will take several tries. Beating the game unlocks the classic Space Invaders game — a given in any updated game (as in Pitfall 3D, Asteroids, etc). A cooperative two-player mode lets you share the fun with a friend as you simultaneously shoot the invaders. 

Progress through the 100 levels can be saved to a memory card every 10 levels. High scores are also preserved. 

Space Invaders is a surprisingly fun and refreshing title in a market of shallow releases. Its simple gameplay has been updated but not tainted, making for a game that will have you hooked for at least a little while.

This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 25-Oct-99