Short Version: If nothing else comes up, then this is easily my favorite iPhone game of the year. There’s almost nothing bad I can say about this game other than how it has made me waste hours of my days playing it. It’s addicting, visually and audibly pleasing and an absolute joy to play, all for just 5 bucks. This game gets my highest recommendation.
Long Version: I’m impressed at how many times Space Invaders can be reinvented in creative ways and still have it work very well. From Space Invaders Extreme on DS/PSP to Space Invaders Infinity Gene on consoles, it was interesting to see how many different twists one can take on the Atari classic. And now, I have been impressed yet again with Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders, and fusion of two classic titles into a very addicting and fun mobile game. It is no exaggeration when I say that I try to play this game every single small chance I get. From playing a few levels before going to bed or trying to beat a challenge while waiting for videos to render, I can’t stop thinking of anything other than playing this game.
Out of This World
Created by Taito Games and published by Square Enix, Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders is a fairly unconventional iOS title, at least by modern standards. For starters, you only have to pay five dollars up front to be able to download the entire thing. This is not a free-to-play title filled with micro transactions, arbitrary timers, advertisements or sleazy ways to get you to spend more money. Despite how plagued the iOS App Store is with this kind of game, Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders instead goes for the more traditional business model of paying for something and receiving a full, finished, concrete product. Within the context of phone games, it’s sounds crazy to do that, but I fully endorse this way of selling a game.
When booting up the game, it takes you straight into the action and briefly explains the basics. As the name implies, it is Arkanoid and Space Invaders put together. You control the Arkanoid paddle as a spaceship with your finger. Instead of shooting the Space Invaders, you reflect back the bullets that they shoot at you, and that’s pretty much all there is to know. However, this very simple concept is difficult to master as they keep adding more and more mechanics the further you progress throughout the many levels to play. Not all levels have the same objective, so it is up to you to create a strategy that fits that objective, along with partners you can recruit that add even more abilities.
There is a sort of beauty seeing this game in motion, almost as if these two seemingly unrelated properties were meant to be together from the very beginning. What is even more striking is that regardless of what previous knowledge you might have of Arkanoid or Space Invaders, the game does everything possible to force you to think differently. The sheer creativity and variety in every level completely recontextualized the way one plays these classic titles. For every world filled with levels, there is always a new mechanic that you have to learn, always keeping you on your toes to new ideas. Most of the time, it’s not about constant action and killing everything for the highest points, but rather hitting a particular target, traversing an obstacle or even winning a boss battle before time runs out. It never feels repetitive and I was always excited to see how the next level would challenge me.
What adds to the gameplay experience is it’s outstanding music and visuals. Filled with similar electronic music that was also found in Extreme and Infinity Gene, there are many tracks that got my head bobbing as I tried different strategies to beat a particularly hard level. Some tracks even reminded of Rez: Infinite, which is always a good thing. When it comes to sound effects, they did a great job in melding the modern music with the classic Space Invaders sound effects of defeating Invaders and shooting projectiles. You can clearly hear the old Atari sounds effects, but they are mixed and implemented so elegantly that it feels natural along with all other sounds. Whoever worked in the sound department deserves to be acknowledged, because they did a great job with this.
Visuals also deserve a good deal of credit. The sheer attention to detail in all aspects of the game is commendable. Carrying a fairly traditional anime style, it shows its many partner characters and environments with bright colors and easily recognizable characteristics. This includes the Invaders and the gameplay interface as well, for the enemies have their own colors, sizes and patterns that are consistent and important to improving your performance in the game. The interface makes really great use of the screen space by subtly displaying abilities, meters and time limits on the side without getting in the way. There are a few options that allow you to play in a more comfortable fashion, in case that the default controls don’t do it for you. It is very clear that they placed a massive amount of love and attention to the smaller details that make a world of difference when looking at the game as a whole. Even the Arkanoid paddle changes its appearance based on what partner character you have equipped, which is such a tiny detail that goes a long way for me, even if it’ll probably go unnoticed by many.
If there is any kind of criticism I can give is probably the story, but even then it is barely a problem. Even though I thought the story was very sweet and enjoyable, it wasn’t interesting or impactful enough to have it necessarily matter. The game could have easily been just a set of levels like in Extreme and Infinity Gene and still have the game be just as good. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nadia in all of her eternal cuteness, but all of that doesn’t necessarily impact your performance in the levels. On the other hand, I fully believe that these dialogue scenes add to the experience, for it contributes to the game’s subtle cuteness and humorous nature scattered throughout. In the same way that a serious Metal Gear game insists on you hiding in cardboard boxes, Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders talks about the grave dangers we’re in while I hire the Bubble Bobble dinosaurs to help me shoot down pixelated enemies with electronic music in the background. It’s silly, and it probably would not have worked any other way.
It Just Gets Better With Age
In conclusion, I think Arkanoid Vs. Space Invaders is a fantastic game. For a five-dollar iPhone app, this is certainly Game of the Year material for me. Usually when I finish a review of a game, I stop playing it and move on to something else, but not this. Even as type this review, I have my phone in front of me with the game loaded up, ready to beat my previous record in the rankings. I will continue to play this until I completely exhaust everything that it has to offer, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.