Not these guys. While the 2008 invaders still prefer holding rank and maintaining a steady formation to Galaxian-style kamikaze attacks, they’re now inclined towards holding a variety of patterns. Some explode on bullet impact, others occasionally take a sneaky dive down towards the ground. You get invaders equipped with shields, or larger invaders that take extra hits or dispense fiendish, unblockable death rays. Even the mothership – formerly defenceless – is getting in on the act with a destructive beam of its own. The great thing about all this is that you no longer know what’s coming from wave to wave, meaning you have to constantly mix up your tactics. In the end, Space Invaders was a game you could play with a slightly dull, scientific precision. Space Invaders Extreme asks you to adjust your approach, react and improvise. By the time you hit the third series of waves, you’re really being kept on your toes.
Luckily, your armoury has grown to match the revamped alien tactics. When shot, certain invaders drop little square power-ups, colour coded to show that they’ll change your slow, single bullet into an explosive missile, an energy beam or multi-shot etc. After years of repelling the Invader armada with inadequate weaponry, it’s a delight to take the beam weapon to them, instantly incinerating column after column of the blocky, arm-waggling varmints. Combine the missile with explosive aliens and it’s possible to dispense with a whole wave in a matter of seconds. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s furious; Space Invaders Extreme has got the constant forward momentum of a hungry shark.
Of course, even sharks like a varied diet. To mix things up even further, the game throws in bonus rounds where you’re given a specific target (shoot 12 red aliens, destroy five patterns) and a time limit. Complete your objective and you’re rewarded with a fever mode, where your points ratchet skywards with every mothership shot down. What’s more, each sequence of waves, or level, finishes with a boss battle. Normally I’d be muttering about heresy at this point, but the fact is that the boss battles are pretty good, hitting you with huge invaders that form and reform in different patterns with different groups of defenders. As always, it’s a question of spotting and taking advantage of the weak points. You may get through the first couple with mindless blasting, but after that point you might – shock – actually have to think!