It's been 10 years since The Simpsons skewered aggressive Mountain Dew-style marketing with Poochie, the hip, catchphrase-spewing, "extreme!" corporate shill shoehorned into The Itchy & Scratchy Show. Has enough time passed that the word "extreme" no longer has the power to bury the needle of our collective bullshit detector? Because Space Invaders Extreme, a faithful update of the 1978 classic, deserves attention in spite of its wildly unimaginative title.
Like Pac-Man: Championship Edition, this budget-priced handheld shooter stays true to the core gameplay and aesthetic of the arcade innovator it seeks to update. The rampaging aliens retain their chunky, old-school shapes. Your cannon only moves right and left, still forever grounded on terra firma. It's a hands-off approach lost on many game-makers, who somehow fail to realize that 30-year-old games endure because of, not in spite of, their low-res look. Rather than razing and rebuilding, Space Invaders Extreme embellishes. Players are rewarded with more powerful cannon blasts if they manage to ice aliens in the proper order. Those UFOs that made the occasional fly-by now trigger bonus waves. And every level of the game now culminates in a boss battle, fought against a giant version of the squid-inspired enemies.
Beyond the game: Space Invaders Extreme takes cues from the many games it inspired. The pulsing techno soundtrack of Rez, the "bullet hell" of contemporary Japanese shooters, and the psychedelic eye-candy of Jeff Minter's Space Giraffe are all addressed.
Worth playing for: Waves come and go at a brisk pace. This is classic gaming for players with YouTube attention spans.
Frustration sets in when: In the 1978 original, players were shielded by several bunkers that deteriorated when fired upon. A popular player tactic was to blast through the walls from behind, creating an arrow slit to fire from. The bunkers and the emergent play they inspired are M.I.A. here.
Final judgment: Pretty spry for a 30-year-old.