Space Invaders Infinity Gene Micro-Review: Evolve or Die

Earlier this year Taito released the original Space Invaders on the iPhone and iPod Touch to average reviews and little fanfare. Now, less than six months later, Taito has re-imagined its classic shooter for the iPhone in Space Invaders Infinity Gene.

The new game has you controlling the laser cannon with your finger, breaking it free from its fixed horizontal path to let you sweep the thing around the screen. While auto-fire is the default, you can set it to allow you to start and stop the cannon's shots.

With the promise of evolution both in the title and the design, can this latest Space Invaders drum up the attention that the original failed to achieve?

Loved
Space Invaders Reimagined: On some level I hold games like Space Invaders sacrosanct. Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man, they're all proto-games representative of a genre they either created or popularized. Trying to reimagine them makes no sense because countless other titles have already done that in the evolution of the genre they represent. These new versions are often pointless and annoying to retro-fans like myself. But there are times when it works. Space Invaders Infinity Gene is one of those moments.

Infinity Gene works because, while it stays anchored in the aesthetic of the original Space Invaders, it ditches just about everything else, turning the heartbeat pace of the steady shoot-em up into something frantic and ever evolving. While the game's enemies include a wide range of shapes and ships, the familiar iconic space invaders always loom, slipping in and out of the background in pulsing lines. The weapons too evolve from a single horizontal dash to energy waves, twin guns, gravity bombs and curving lock-on rays.

Infinite Space Invaders: The game initially comes at you in a series of increasingly long levels, 19 of them in total. But as you play you unlock evolutions which give you new weapons, new music, new art, and a few new levels. The really amazing thing about Space Invaders Infinity Gene, though, is its ability to draw inspiration from your iPod Touch or iPhone's music library and create new levels. I tried this a half dozen times so far, playing through Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," Vampire Weekend's "A-Punk" and Jimi Hendrix's "Once I Had a Woman," to name a few. Each level was different enough to convince me that something new was going on, that the levels really were born of a Hendrix guitar solo and Cash's gravely voice.

Hated
Nonsensical Evolutionary Tree: There's a lot going for Space Invaders Infinity Gene, but the game's namesake evolution tree isn't one of them. On paper it sounds like you'll be choosing evolution paths, like in a role-playing game, as you progress through the levels. That's not really the case. Really the tree is just a handy way to show you all of the stuff you've unlocked, none of it really building on each other to create re-playability or different paths.

There are few games worthy of a permanent spot on my iPhone's increasingly bloated screens, Space Invaders Infinity Gene is one of them. It's not just because I have an affinity for Space Invaders, it's because I feel that the ability to play unique levels based on whatever I happen to be listening to at the time will keep this game from ever feeling dated.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene was developed and published by Taito for the iPhone and iPod Touch on July 27. Retails for $4.99 USD. Played all game types in both single player mode and multiple music-created levels.

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