It must be hard being in possession of one of the few true gaming icons. There’s always going to be a terrible balancing act of pleasing the old fans and attracting new players.
Go too far one way and you're milking a monetary cow; too the other way and you're spoiling the milk.
Last year’s edition of Space Invaders Extreme took the classic’s simple but addictive gameplay and threw every colour and sound in the spectrum in the process. It used a very clever, albeit slightly over-complicated, scoring method that relied on speed and accuracy, but was short and made very little use of the top screen.
It’s almost as if Project Just has read Pocket Gamer's criticisms and taken them to heart. This superior sequel manages to be even more ‘extreme’ than its predecessor.
The premise is still the same as it was back in 1978: you are a ship, you shoot invaders before they land. Unlike the original, though, not only do they stagger drunkenly from side to side but they also teleport, buzz around, drop bombs, and generally act like proper aggressors, albeit limited in shape and colour.
The invaders may be limited graphically to the original designs, but the rest of Extreme 2’s presentation isn’t.
The music is fast and dancey with your gunfire pitching up and down with the beat to create a whirlwind of sound. Adding to this atmosphere of chaos, an overly enthusiastic announcer yells terms of encouragement like ‘Nice flying, maverick’ as you fight back the invasion.
The adrenaline-pumping sound is complimented perfectly be excellent animated backgrounds. Admittedly, these can become slightly distracting when bullets are hailing down, but there's an option to switch them off should they become a pain.
Avoiding the hail of bullets is the least of your concerns, though, as it's relatively painless for a large portion of the 11 potential stages at the normal difficulty level. Instead, after the first few minutes of playing something else will become apparent. Something far more sinister than invaders from space, more dangerous than laser fire: The Bingo Card.
Yes, the bingo card. A simple 3x3 box that sits ominously above your score on the top screen, mocking you. It’s the sole reason why, despite my thumbs being hardly able to move, I wanted just one more game, just one more chance.
And I don’t even like bingo.
As with its predecessor, Space Invaders Extreme 2 uses a very clever scoring system but manages to make things a little easier to achieve this time around.
Consecutively clearing two colours in groups of four (or 8 of the same colour) give you the chance to ‘fill in’ the corresponding box of the bingo card by playing a bonus round. This takes place on the top screen without disrupting the flow of play at the bottom against a strict time limit.
What sounds potentially confusing is actually very easy to grasp. Your bullets seamlessly fly towards the top without any extra input and getting clear shots without running out of time or hitting a stray bullet is incredible satisfying.
Successfully clearing the top screen initiates a manic bonus round, Fever Time, which quickens the pace of the music and dishes out points with abandon. If you happen to complete a line of boxes across the Bingo Card however, something glorious occurs.
It's impossible to describe the elation of Bingo Fever.
Armed with an upgraded rocket launcher, invaders bunched in the classic formation, gold boxes filled with points showering down from on high, the amount of chaos on screen is overwhelmingly enjoyable.
With careful planning and a fair degree of skill it's even possible to create two or even three line bingos. The difficulty of clearing the top screen during these rare moments can be utterly heartbreaking, though, as the difficulty ramps up with the number of lines being matched.
Not everything is as enjoyable as claiming a tough Bingo. There's a noticeable difficulty spike during the latter stages on normal difficulty, which may put a number of players off.Extreme Muscle Pain
While the game doesn’t restart you back to the beginning when you run out of lives (unless you’re playing for an online rank), the final boss is a war of attrition and employs some almost unfair attack patterns.
This is made all the more frustrating as finishing the game on normal unlocks ‘Extreme’ mode with a whole seven more unique stages. It’s a shame Extreme 2 effectively forces you to grit your teeth and play through the pain barrier to access half of the game, especially as the new mode offers more variety and challenge than the first half.
For those uninterested in bingos and fevers, there’s still a disappointing lack of other game modes on offer. While it’s nice to have a Time Attack option this time around, it would have been better to include some unique quick play options to mix things up.
Having said that, the multiplayer is still great fun, and the online leaderboards are well implemented. It isn’t even necessary to have a wi-fi hotspot handy, either, as the games offers offline play for both modes, with your highest ranked score saved on the cartridge for later.
With addictive and exciting gameplay and even a fair degree of strategy thrown in for good measure, Space Invaders Extreme 2 offers up one of the finest shooters on the DS.
Played as a standard game it’s still a little too short, but anyone with even a passing interest in high scores will be glued to their screens for months.