Space Invaders Infinity Gene an amazing evolutionary retro shooter

Posted: July 27, 2009 in Shooter


That one word describes Space Invaders: Infinity Gene (SIIG) a retro shooter that not only builds upon Space Invaders, but takes elements from today’s shooters to create new kind of gameplay that others will attempt to emulate. Combining the techno beat soundtrack, inspired environments, and free movement, this has it all and for the most part successfully delivers a full-scale experience I don’t think many expected. The gameplay can be best summed up this way: a lot is going on yet you don’t know what’s going on.

Imagine a shooter where the ship is like a living being with RPG elements. That is what you have with SIIG. As you successfully complete levels with epic battles and even more epic boss battles, your ship evolves. From rapid fire weapons to psychedelic environments full of bright lights, you’ll have freedom to navigate via your fingertip with ease. The touch controls are the most responsive I’ve played with since rRootage, and the ability to maneuver is highly accurate.

The menu is set up like an evolutionary tree with a trunk representing the levels and branches showing the various unlocked stages, weapons and subsystems. The Evolution theme is well integrated throughout, and the menu sets the stage for that. Initially, the game offers easy and normal modes of difficulty, but an additional mode is unlocked later once you complete the game on the normal setting.

The first level is rather bland and starts out as the old school Space Invaders game with invaders moving back and forth. Your ship has a basic pea shooter for a weapon and is stationary. But this is all part of the process. As you progress to the next sublevel, you gain the Chain Bonus System which allows for quicker ability to rack up points as well new subsystems and a more rapid fire weapon. Once enemies are destroyed and scoring milestones are met, an Evolution screen appears each time your ship evolves with a new weapon or ability which also unlocks an Arms Select screen for choosing your weapon of choice. It’s a symbiosis of sorts because as new weapons are acquired, your ship evolves physically and in strength. But so do your enemies who not only get stronger and move faster, but levels culminate with even bigger boss battles. To further play on the Evolution theme, one of which Darwin would be proud, destroyed enemies release gene clusters in the form of blue pellets which you can acquire to boost your ship’s power even more.

During this entire time, chaos reigns with explosions, showers of missile fire, and that ever beating soundtrack. As I played through this, I looked back and wondered how I got through that level. That’s the type of sensation you will have with this game. While many of the elements I’ve described so far are things many of us have seen before in other shooters, what differentiates SIIG is that they are all brought together in a well laid out path as your ship evolves from a simple pea shooter to a major ship of mass destruction.

As you move through the levels, more obstacles and colors appear as the game becomes more elaborate. One thing that bears mentioning is that if you decide to play your own music, the game will generate random levels based on your music. I tried this with several songs including Barry Manilow (research purposes of courses), Def Leppard, and Chicago to get a sense of what would appear. I found that levels generated are song specific meaning that when I played “Mandy”, the same level was generated each time I played that song. When I played “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, a different level was generated for that song. That’s pretty evolutionary right?

The 38 levels themselves are as original as the names they’ve been given such as Adaptive Radiation, Genetic Diversity, Silent Mutation, Founder Effect and Subspecies among others. Each level and sublevel have different power up items activated in a certain way such as destroying a certain enemy or even when your ship gets shot. Search lasers, High Speed Shot, Free Movement and Penetration are just some of the power ups and abilities your ship receives in the first two levels. The best part is that you can go back to previous levels through the level tree and replay them to secure missed or additional power ups. There is a significant amount of unlockables in terms of features and weapons within each level, and the level tree allows for easy access.

Because the game is about evolution, if you miss certain power ups in previous levels, the later levels become even more difficult. Think of it as missing link where tools need to be collected throughout in order to reach a certain goal. Miss a few, and the task becomes much more difficult. Remember I mentioned the tree-like menu. As you progress through the game, this tree will change, and it will differ from player to player depending on stages completed, items uncovered and pace at which the game is played. Ultimately, your success and failure will determine what this tree looks like.

The boss fights are rather entertaining in themselves. One of the first bosses you’ll face is one that fires a gigantic laser down the middle of the screen. Of course, you’ll only have a split second to react to the beam or be destroyed. Then there are the mother ships that unleash ongoing attack waves. One particular enemy of note is shaped like a pinwheel that spins faster the more you shoot it and eventually shrinks into nothing. If you stop shooting for just a second, the pinwheel will actually grow up to its original size. Another is the octopus-like ships that shoot tentacles across the screen, and in later levels, enemies have lock-on weapons systems that make evasion very difficult. Graphically, the different types of enemies are unique and widespread, moving at increased speeds as you progress. And as I said before, you won’t know what hit you in many cases because of the chaos and surrounding weapons fire. Visually, it’s an awesome light show whether you’re a spectator or a player.

Where the game could use some tweaking is in the menu selection, and I noticed on occasion where my taps didn’t register on my iPod Touch 2g 3.0. Navigating the menus can be somewhat disorienting at first, but you do get used to it. Also, while high scores are kept for normal difficulty, they are not kept for the easy setting, which doesn’t make much sense since you can unlock levels playing on that setting. Personally, I don’t have any issues with the touch controls, but I know there are those who prefer alternative controls schemes. Honestly, I don’t know how you can play SIIG without touch controls because most of the maneuvers are through tight spaces.

Overall, SIIG is an impressive shooter with an even more impressive use of graphics and animation. When you consider that this game takes elements from today’s shooters and incorporates them into one game, SIIG in a way tracks the evolution of the shooter as we know it. Ironically or not, the game is about evolution, and you certainly experience that here. To coin a phrase from the Haight Ashbury days: it’s an awesome trip, man.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (arguably the top retro shooter out there that will make your head spin; evolutionary theme is well executed throughout; creatively engineering enemies and randomly generated levels based on your own tunes is amazing)


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