I loved Space Invaders Extreme when it arrived on PSP and DS last year. It took the simple old-school gameplay that made the original game so popular and pumped it full with adrenaline. The result was a frenetic, fast-paced high-score beating arcade game. It was incredibly addictive, a great use of a classic license and huge fun. The sequel, imaginatively titled Space Invaders Extreme 2, hasn't had to rewrite the rule book like the first game did, but it does improve on the formula enough to make it a must own title for retro junkies.
From the main menu things look rather basic. There's Score Attack (compete for score), Time Attack (compete for best clear time), Ranking (upload your records to the Global Rankings tables) and Multiplayer (local and online play for up to two players). It's not much, but behind these menus is a game that will keep you hooked for months.
Score Attack presents you with a series of levels, with a degree of branching being offered as you progress. You might choose to go down the path of least resistance and opt for the easy stages or test your skills on the more advanced levels. Novices who opt for the Beginners mode have no choice in the matter, but do get a generally lower difficulty level and unlimited lives. The goal is clearly to rack up as big a score as possible, and you'll be able to use various weapon and defensive power-ups to help you out.
Each invading alien craft is coloured, with successive kills of one colour resulting in a power-up associated with that type being released for your cannon to collect. Shoot four blues, for example, and you'll get an incredibly handy laser beam that makes mincemeat out of anything that gets in its way; shoot four black ships and you'll get a protective barrier across the screen above your cannon, stopping enemy fire before it has a chance to blow you up.
Numerous score building opportunities crop up as you play. A multiplier that increases to a maximum of 10 is your key to a massive score, but it's reset to zero if your cannon is wiped out. There's also a chain system, with 100 ships destroyed in a single chain (chain depletes over time) activating a break state, in which the score multiplier is raised to 16. Losing all your lives means it's game over (you can retry but it'll reset your score), so earning more will help you out immensely. By performing 10 sequences (shooting a series of ships of the same colour or shape, or in a row or column) you'll earn an extra life.
Mini-games are triggered that present you with even more scoring opportunities and boss battles ensue that will cause more than a few expletives to be shouted out in anger. With a boss taking up almost all of the top display and smaller craft darting about on the bottom, Extreme 2 is as hectic as games come, testing your reactions and awareness to their limits. Played to the thumping beats of a dance soundtrack, with your weapons and enemy kills adding to the symphony, it's incredibly easy to get into the zone, and once you're there it's hard to leave.
Time Attack switches the emphasis to blazing through stages as quickly as possible, and in turn makes for a fairly different experience compared to the high-score chasing of Score Attack. It's the online leaderboards that make Extreme 2 (and its predecessor) so addictive, though. Having a way to compare your achievements to the best players in the world will give you something to aim for, and make you hit the retry button one more time, over and over again. If you want a more personal challenge there's also two-player competitive play, with the ability to play locally with players who have the game, online against players from all over the world and against friends who don't own the game thanks to DS download play.
Space Invaders Extreme 2 looks like a mish-mash of retro graphics, dated gameplay and a thumping dance soundtrack, but it combines to be something brilliant. The gameplay is deceptively deep, the high score chasing is dangerously addictive, and the presentation is just as about as stylish as Space Invaders could possibly be. This is a must own for DS-owning arcade gamers.