What is the deal with great retro re-imaginings this summer? Last week, PSN
folks got Shatter, the hands-down, absolute best version of Arkanoid or Brick
Breaker or whatever you call it ever released. Next week brings the Xbox Live
Arcade revamp of the arcade classic TMNT: Turtles In Time. And sandwiched right
in the middle is the iPhone revamp of the classic Space Invaders, titled Space
Invaders Infinity Gene. And guess what? Just like Shatter will make people
forget Arkanoid, Infinity Gene obliterates every version of Space Invaders ever
For the purposes of including everyone, I'm just making the assumption that
you, the reader, are familiar with Space Invaders. C'mon, guys! It's a classic!
Next you'll tell me you don't know Pac-Man or QBert! If you aren't familiar, go
look it up. I'll be here when you get back.
Ok, are we all caught up? Good. I admit it; I didn't think Space Invaders
could get much better than last year's DS and PSP title Space Invaders Extreme,
which coupled the classic gameplay with rather intense but never overbearing
techno and oh so many graphic flourishes that couldn't be described as new or
old, just hypnotizing. Somehow, Infinity Gene takes the main idea even further,
by straying ever so slightly from the restrictive old setup while not losing
touch with what made the original great.
At first, Infinity Gene is identical to every other version of Space Invaders
ever, with the exception of it's touch controls, which work beautifully a
single finger on the screen wherever it feels comfortable to you will move your
ship side to side, without ever blocking your view of the action. As you begin
to clear waves of enemies and finish stages, things start to change a bit.
Enemies change attack patterns, you begin earning new lasers and power ups, even
bosses begin to appear. But it happens so gradually from stage to stage that it
almost feels like a good piece of classical music building to a powerful
crescendo. And each time things get a little more intense, Infinity Gene pulls
the player in totally new, but never forced directions. Before you know it,
there is a Tron-inspired background whizzing by, while giant, screen filling
enemy ships litter the playing field with lasers and, most surprisingly, you
have complete freedom of movement something never seen before in the Space
Invaders series. Even if you aren't a Space Invaders fan, or even a shooting
game fan, it's worth the $4.99 asking price to experience the way the game ramps
up from something that was amazing 30 years ago to something that is similar,
but every bit as amazing by today's standards.
If that were all Infinity Gene had to offer, it would still be a
must-download iPhone title in my book. But the very best part of the game isn't
what I've described thus far. No, it actually gets better. Being that it's an
iPhone game, the developers figured it was safe to assume that you'd have some
access to music on the device. And the game will put that music to good use.
Even though the normal soundtrack is rather good (a mix of Space Invaders
Extreme-style techno will all the classic sound effects to round it out), the
game allows you to use your own music behind all the action. That's cool and
all, but the music actually plays a role in the game. Space Invaders Infinity
Gene uses your music to CREATE CUSTOM LEVELS BASED ON ANY SONG YOU WANT. Other
games have attempted this kind of thing before, but I've never seen it work as
well as it does here. Slower, more mellow songs provide an easier experience,
but unfortunately for me, my music tastes tend to lean more toward punk rock and
power metal. Even the most hardcore of shooter fans will be reducing to
quivering blobs by the stages created from some of my favorite bands. If you're
feeling brave, download the French metal band Heavenly's "Call of the Wild,"
from their CD "Dust to Dust," on iTunes. If you last more than 25 seconds
without losing all three of your lives, my hat is off to you, sir. I'm convinced
that this neat little feature is capable of creating the most punishing shooter
stages ever seen by human eyes.
I bring my iPhone with me everywhere I go. I usually have a DS, GBA or PSP
with me as well. For the past few weeks, I've had my PSP and Monster Hunter
Freedom Unite with me at all times in anticipation of any handful of minutes I
might have to spend swearing at whatever monster keeps kicking my butt that day.
But for the first time ever, Space Invaders Infinity Gene had me pick up my
iPhone to play a game over something on a game-specific portable system (it's an
even bigger deal when you consider it was this or Monster Hunter). Did people in
the 70s and 80s think that we'd still be playing their favorite games 20 or 30
years later? Who knows? But here we are; Shatter and Infinity Gene outshine
nearly every other new release this month.
Ok, Frogger. You're next.
Final Rating: 95%