Everyone knows Space Invaders, whether you were born in the 60s or 70s and played it in the arcade, or you’ve played it via one of the hundreds of home-console and PC ports. Heck, even if you’ve not played it, you’ve most likely seen the iconic alien designs in some form or another. I’ve personally not played many variations of the game outside of the classic version on the Atari 2600, so I was excited to see how the game had been modernised within the Space Invaders Forever collection on the PlayStation 4 (via my PS5).
Space Invaders launched within arcades back in 1978, manufactured and sold by TAITO in Japan (and Midway in the US). It was one of the most influential games of all time, helping the video game industry transform from a novelty to a global industry, inspiring countless games which will launch after its release. The new collection which I’m taking a look at today contains three modernised versions of the game, developed by TAITO and published by ININ Games, each one altering the format to create a new experience each time.
So, although the game is now over 40 years old, does the format and concept still hold up and offer an enjoyable experience? Let’s find out…
Space Invaders Extreme
This is, by far, one of the best versions of Space Invaders I’ve ever played. Sure, I said above that I’ve really only played this collection and the original Atari version, but I’ve played a lot of clones and games heavily inspired by the format in my lifetime. Originally released on the PSP and Nintendo DS, to celebrate 30 years of Space Invaders back in 2008, and then again on Steam to mark the 40th anniversary in 2018, this is a remake of the classic game with a whole host of psychedelic visuals and a bunch of weapons to use.
The game is essentially the classic game we all know and love but with a few major upgrades. You control a spaceship on the bottom of the screen, moving left and right as you blast the pesky aliens back to where they came from. However, as you take out these intrusive invaders, some of them drop powerups as we see in games such as Arkanoid – each one equipping you with a new deadly temporary weapon. Some such abilities are a constant laser beam, a three-way scattershot, and even rather explosive bombs!
Another new addition to this modern classic is the introduction to bonus rounds. Every now and again you’ll see a flashing UFO go accross the top of the screen, hitting that will take you to a bonus round where you have a set goal (such as destroy X number of aliens) to complete within a time limit. In this stage, the aliens don’t bounce from left to right, they tend to fly right at you from an angle, thus making these more stressful and difficult than the main game. If you beat this stage then you’ll return back to the main stage with a much more powerful ship – for a limited time.
One of the main things which grabbed me with Space Invaders Extreme was the visuals. The game itself is much more zoomed in than your standard Space Invaders game, yet you can still clearly see everything that’s going on. Well, it’s clear until you begin to destroy the unwanted visitors! The game is very colourful, every enemy you kill explodes into smaller blocks with a flash of light, filling the screen with a psychedelic array of colours and debris. Chaining attacks only further fills your screen like it’s bonfire night (or the 4th of July) and you’re watching a mighty fireworks display.
To top off the groovy visuals, you can opt to have a video running in the background, a video which enhances the gameplay with many pretty patterns and colourful shapes. I imagine anyone who plays the game whilst under the influence of a certain drug (which I don’t condone) will have a serious mindf*ck whilst playing it – similar to what I thought about Tetris Effect. Thankfully, if you suffer from epilepsy, or are beginning to get a headache, you can turn off the background in the settings – but there are still flashing lights within the game.
Another welcome aspect to the game is the introduction to bosses and even a map system. Based on how you perform within each of the levels, you’ll sometimes get the choice to alter your route in the main map and divert towards another pathway. There are 11 stages in total, each with varying difficulty, but you’ll only play five in each playthrough so you’ll have to replay the game and aim to get a higher score without dying if you wish to go down the other routes. The bosses are creative and require you to think fast and adapt to the situation, aiming for their weak points whilst taking out their smaller minions.
Upon completing the game once, you have a few options on what to do next. You can enter Free Play and replay any of the stages you’ve already encountered and beaten, or you can take on the much harder Extreme pathway. This much harder mode only has five stages (with no branching pathways), but it’ll take you a while to master it as the enemies here are more aggressive.
Now, as much as I love this game and enjoy all the upgrades and new mechanics the developers have implemented, there is something which they didn’t include within this 2018 remaster – multiplayer. The 2008 DS version allowed for online gameplay against strangers, the PSP also supported multiplayer but it was limited to the local AD-HOC mode. Backbone Entertainment ported the game to Xbox Live Arcade in 2009 which was essentially the same only with the background visuals we see in this new version and a four-player cooperative mode (I’m unsure if it was local or online).
However, the 2018 version (this one) had a bunch of new features and Quality of Life improvements implimented, features such as the ability to auto-fire by holding Square or Triangle (no more cramped fingers or broken buttons by furiously tapping) and the inclusion of live online leaderboards (basically replacing the cooperative and multiplayer modes). They also adjusted a lot of the game to make it more appealing to casual and new gamers (to the franchise), making earlier stages easier and more rewarding so that the player feels enticed to continue playing and giving it ‘one more go’.
So, things were changed and some modes were removed – do you care that the multiplayer aspect was removed? For me, I’m not too fussed, for those who are – the next game is for you…
Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE
This is my least favourite game in the collection, I may even like it less than the original Atari 2600 version – why? The focus on multiple players!
To be fair to the game, it states everywhere that it’s a four-player Space Invaders experience where the objective is to clear the stages as fast as possible and take out the epic bosses. However, considering the game actually allows you to start and play the game as a solo gamer, it doesn’t look good when the game is virtually impossible to complete unless you have other players fighting alongside you. But, before I get into the reasons why this game is impossible if you’re on your own, let’s talk about the actual game itself…
Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE is essentially an ultrawide version of the classic game (at first). There are 35 columns of aliens on the screen (yes, 35!) and you have to move left and right as you take them out. Once you have destroyed a certain amount of them, the game sucks up the remaining foes and changes the gameplay into an almost Centipede edition, with random aliens coming down individually as they try to reach your level. The difference here is that when you shoot the tiny alien, it gets bigger – do this two times and the third hit will make them ‘pop’. Once they reach your ship, the game takes you to the boss level.
One thing of note, unlike the classic version, getting hit in this game doesn’t mean you die or lose a life. Instead, you fizzle for a few seconds then carry on, keeping all the points you gained before you were hit. So, what’s the disadvantage of getting hit? Basically, as you’re now out of action for a few seconds, it allows the other players to take advantage and possibly earn more points whilst you just sit there.
The boss is where the game becomes impossible for a solo player. Each one has a set time limit, but it’s impossible to deliver enough damage within the timeframe if you’re on your own. The game prompts you that clamping two or four ships together allows you to deliver a much more powerful attack upon the boss – but you can’t if it’s only you. You can, however, take off as much damage as possible then continue once you inevitably run out of time – this will reset your points to zero and make the whole run pointless (in terms of leaderboards). As such, this game is best played if you have someone locally to play it with (there’s no online option from what I could see).
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders
Now, here’s a dream combination – the classic Space Invaders combined with the classic Arkanoid! This was originally a mobile game which launched in 2017, developed by TAITO and published by Square Enix – you can still buy it today on the Apple and Play Stores, it’s a premium (£4.99/5.99) game which is free of all microtransactions and iAP. The game brilliantly combines the paddle gameplay from Arkanoid with the threat of an alien invasion from Space Invaders, delivering 150 levels, a bunch of abilities, and a whole host of familiar faces to hire as your playable character.
This game actually has a story but it’s basically ‘aliens have invaded from space, thus we’re calling them Space Invaders. It’s up to you to save the world, good luck’ – but presented more elegantly! The gameplay though, it’s beyond addictive and rewarding, but it does have one major ‘issue’/’problem’, which I’ll come to later. Each level is basically Arkanoid, you move the paddle around and instead of deflecting a single ball, you’re deflecting the projectiles which the Space Invaders shoot at you, bouncing them around as you smash blocks and kill your foes.
You’ll not only face standard levels like this, but you’ll also encounter boss battles which require you to be more aggressive and mindful of missing any of the enemies’ projectiles. If you allow any beam to go behind you then the timer will begin to drop more rapidly. That’s right, mobile games are known to be fast-paced action games which don’t last too long – this is no different. Each stage (normal or boss) has a time limit attached. If you don’t complete your task within the time (destroying blocks, aliens, or both) then you lose and must replay the very short level. If you complete it then you get a bonus and can move on.
Each level earns you coins, coins which can be spent on buying new characters and abilities to use within the level. Thankfully, everything is bought with the in-game credits (which are given generously) so nothing felt like a drag or a grind to afford (like some mobile to consoles ports do). Each of the characters, I opted for Bob from Bubble Bobble, has their own unique ability/skill which can be activated manually or automatically within the level once you collect a skill powerup.
As well as grabbing skill drops (just like in Arkanoid), the game often tricks you with red debuffs – these do things such as reduces your time, causes you to become paralysed, and even shrinks your paddle. To help you out though, later levels start introducing helpful items such as blocks that’ll explode in a line, killing everything it touches, upon impact. I love mobile games (I’m sorry), games which I can pick up and play for a few minutes and then realise I’ve been sat there for over an hour addicted to the gameplay. Arkanoid vs Space Invaders is just as addictive when playing on my 4K TV – I couldn’t stop playing it this morning!
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders has 150 levels, however, once you’ve completed a set of levels on the Normal difficulty (15 levels), you’ll unlock the Hard version of each of those – this means you essentially have 300 levels to play as there’s a trophy for completing them all on both difficulties. I’ve completed around 70 levels on Normal so far, and 12 on Hard, I’m having a lot of fun but Hard really is tricky – mainly due to the time limit!
Now, I said there was one ‘issue’ or ‘problem’ with this game – its controls. As this was/is a mobile port, the developers have tried to emulate the control scheme as best they can… using the touchpad. I imagine the Switch edition will be much better, as it has a touchscreen, but the PS4 version forces you to use the touchpad in order to move your paddle around. Now, this wouldn’t be ‘too bad’ if it worked like most games which use the pad, having you use it like a trackpad on a laptop, but it doesn’t. Let me try to explain…
On a trackpad, you can lift your finger, readjust, then put it back down and continue moving the pointer on the screen – same as moving a mouse, picking it up, placing it in another location, then continuing to move it. In Arkanoid vs Space Invaders, the touchpad is essentially emulating a mobile phone – if you move to the left with your finger, lift it up, then put it back on the pad on the right-hand side (so you can swipe more to the left), the paddle instantly moves to the right – where your finger is.
This control method takes a little getting used to as it means you have to hold the controller in a way you can constantly keep your finger on the pad. Thankfully, as mentioned before, you can opt to have the special moves performed automatically, otherwise, you have to manually push the pad in, the triggers, or up on the D-Pad to activate it – which can be a little cumbersome. At first, I didn’t like this but I’m starting to become accustomed to it, you simply swipe left and right to move and then thrust it forwards to turn the reflected projectiles into more powerful attacks.
My one question is, the Switch doesn’t have a touchpad, it only has a touchscreen. So, when playing in TV mode are you forced to use motion controls or can you use the thumbsticks? If you can use the thumbsticks, why haven’t the developers given PS4 gamers the same option as an alternative to the touchpad?
The biggest disappointment
The one thing I hated the most about this collection (other than the second game which is practically a multiple player game only), is the fact that I’ve just seen a better version of the game whilst writing this review. The ‘Forever’ edition contains the three games I’ve listed above – no bonus features such as a history of the game, the soundtrack, alternative versions (such as the PSP and/or the Xbox 360 edition), or even the original classics ( Bubble Bobble 4 Friends even had that as a bonus feature). However, there is a version coming to the Switch which is clearly what this game should have been…
Strictly Limited Games (it’s another limited run release rather than a standard edition which everyone can freely buy in stores) is releasing the Space Invaders: Invincible Collection. At the moment they’re taking pre-orders and are expecting it to launch in November or December. The Collector’s Edition is by far the best version you should pick up if you’re a fan of the franchise as you get many items such as the soundtrack, a book, stickers, a badge, a collector’s box, and more. They also have a Standard Edition (10% left), which is around £54, that contains:
● Space Invaders (1978, Arcade) – b/w
● Space Invaders (1978, Arcade) – colour
● Space Invaders Part II (1979, Arcade)
● Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV (1990, Arcade)
● Super Space Invaders ’91 (1990, Arcade)
● Space Invaders Extreme (2018)
● Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE (2018)
● Arkanoid vs Space Invaders (2016)
● Space Invaders DX (1994, Arcade)
● Space Cyclone (1980, Arcade)
● Lunar Rescue (1979, Arcade)
As you can see, both of the Limited Editions come with 11 games, including the three you get within the Space Invaders Forever collection. I know that companies often repackage their games in new collections in order to sell new versions to their fans, but this is due out a year after the collection I’m reviewing today – that seems too short of a time between releases. As such, although I had fun with this collection today, I really wish the above games were part of it – but, the limited edition one is over double the price.
Is the Space Invaders Forever collection worth the asking price of £24.99? Personally, Just like with Bubble Bobble, I think it’s priced a little too high. However, Space Invaders Extreme is £15.49 on Steam and Arkanoid Vs. Space invaders is around £5 on mobile, so technically it’s just added those together and charged a fiver for the multiplayer game. So, when you look at it like that, it’s not too bad – the limited edition at £50-100 are the ones where you really need to think if you like the franchise that much.
In terms of enjoyment, I played Extreme for a few hours and keep returning to it when I have a few moments spare, I hardly touched the multiplayer game as I have nobody to play locally with, and the Arkanoid game is very addictive – I can see myself playing that for hours and hours until I’ve completed all 150 levels at both difficulties. My only criticism with that game is the controls – I hope the developers add an option to use the thumbsticks (as I imagine it is on the Switch).
I would have liked some bonus features such as a history of the game or some of the earlier titles thrown in as they did with Bubble Bobble, it’s a very bare-bones collection. When I look at the title, Space Invaders Forever, that sounds like it’s meant to be a collection which looks back over the previous games and allows the buyer to play through and experience the games as they evolved – but, I guess that was kept for the more expensive limited-run edition. I miss collections such as the SNK, Street Fighter, and Castlevania ones, they all gave you multiple versions and regions of classic titles as well as many bonus features and history to read through.
Despite being rather bare-bones, Space Invaders Forever contains two awesome modernised editions of the game and one which is best played with friends. Even if you never grew up playing Space Invaders, the game is still fun to play today, especially with the new features such as powerups and massive boss battles – the gameplay is very easy to simply pick up and play without any skill required. I was disappointed in requiring multiple players for the second game (to win) and being forced to use the touchpad in the third, but once I adapted to this control scheme I really started to have fun and quickly became addicted. I would have loved to see more of the Space Invaders history within the game (as bonus features or older games), but overall I was happy with the two single-player focused games.
Space Invaders Forever£24.99
- - Space Invaders Extreme is the best Space Invaders game I've played, it's fast-paced and very colourful
- - Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders is very addictive and offers many hours of gameplay
- - If you have friends locally to play with, Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE should be a fun game to play together
- - There are online leaderboards which gives you something to aim to beat
- - The forced use of the touchpad in the Arkanoid version won't be for everyone, I wish it had a 'standard controls' option
- - Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE is pointless if you're playing solo as the bosses can't be beaten
- - It's very bare bones for a 'Forever' collection, I would have liked more history to read or older games to play
- - This has launched when a much more feature-packed edition has already been announced on the Switch