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Game review: Space Invaders Invincible (Switch)

By Darren Price, 20 Aug 2021

Japanese vending machine company Taito Corporation first began producing video games in the early 1970s, no doubt inspired by Nolan Bushell’s Atari video games like Computer Space and Pong. But it was Taito’s 1978 arcade cabinet, Space Invaders, that arguably had the most profound impact on the general public and the fledgling video game industry. Also, I’m pretty sure that Space Invaders was the first video game that I ever played.

Space Invaders Invincible is an 11-game archive featuring eight different versions of Space Invaders from the original black and white cabinet game to Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE, the Switch exclusive version of the 40th Anniversary event multiplayer game. Also included is Lunar Rescue and Space Cyclone, two games that used the same board as Space Invaders. Apparently, Arachnoid vs Space Invaders is included in the pack as a separate download, although I couldn’t find it.

The classic games are all presented in their original portrait view. Players can choose to play on the Switch screen normally, with bars on each side, or with the view flipped 90-degrees and the switch screen on its side for a bigger view of the action.

Each game has different options that can be applied and there are also in-game instructions. I particularly liked the option of turning on scanlines for a more authentic pixelated display on some of the older games.  

Space Invaders B&W, Space Invaders Colour and Space Invaders Part II are all very similar, and the most familiar to me. These feature the classic advancing Space Invaders with the player defending the bases under fire from above.

Even now, these classic Space Invaders games, however simplistic they are compared to modern games, have an unparalleled appeal. It may be nostalgia, but it also may be the purity of the gameplay. A simple shooter up against a relentless enemy.

The inclusion of Lunar Rescue is a nice surprise as it is an excellent classic in its own right. The game has players control a lander that must negotiate its way from the mothership through deadly asteroids to the surface to pick up people. The ascent to the mothership requires avoiding or shooting enemy spacecraft that are firing back. It’s a game that looks easy but isn’t, as my kids, who initially laughed at the rudimentary gameplay, found out.

Space Cyclone is a bit of a mess, in my opinion. It smacks of someone trying to improve on the Space Invaders concept but failing. The Invaders look like they are sitting on clouds whilst all manner of weird stuff is being hurls that the player. It’s worth a look, though, if only to hear early voice synthesis in an arcade game. 

The rest of the games are derivatives of the classic Space Invaders. They incorporate slightly different game mechanics and/or better graphics. Majestic Twelve: The Space Invaders Part IV and Super Space Invaders ’91 are effectively the same game. Majestic Twelve allows the players to select the stages, whereas ’91 has players progressing through the stages sequentially. In this version, players have a rapid-fire gun and the invaders use different formations in their attacks.

Space invaders DX is an anthology in its own right. It features a few versions of the classic Space Invaders game plus a two-player split-screen mode and a parody version from the SNES featuring other Taito characters. Of note is the version that mimics the transparent graphics overlaying the planet background in some of the original cabinets. Another version emulates the coloured film used in the early cabinets to give the otherwise white sprites different colours.

My personal favourite is Space Invaders Extreme. This 2018 reimagining of Space Invaders adds a thudding soundtrack and high-octane visuals to the game. There’s also weapon upgrades, chain bonuses, challenge rounds and boss battles. It’s pretty much the ultimate modern Space Invaders experience.

The last title in the pack, Space Invaders Gigamax 4 SE pits up to four players in a local co-op fight against a huge number of approaching invaders in the traditional formation as well as diving attacks and boss fights. The game is ultra-wide and a lot of fun on your own or with friends. It’s based on a ten-player version of the game create for events celebrating the original Space Invader’s 40th anniversary.

Many of the original arcade games have an alternative challenge mode that gives the player one life to get as many points as possible. Except for Space Invaders Extreme, all the games can be played with at least two players in local multiplayer. 

Space Invaders Invincible is a superb collection of some of the most influential video games ever, plus some interesting alternative and modern interpretations. It makes for a perfect Switch game that you can quickly pick up and play.

Verdict: 8/10 

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