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Space Invaders: Invasion Day

These Americans, they’re a funny lot you know. They appoint a blood thirsty, war-for-tea recovered alcoholic of a politician as President who leads our Tony into war, bombs British troops then turns off our mobile phones for his visit ‘oop north. They call football a girl’s game, yet in their own ‘sport’, American Football, they barely use the part of the body known as the foot to kick the ball, begging the question “why do they call it football?”. They carry guns to minimise gun deaths, they lap up the Grand Theft Auto series despite the fact it ‘takes the mickey’ out of them. Talk to anyone in the south about Elvis and they’ll tell you he owns a Laundromat in Cleveland, a gas station in Ohio and a doughnut shop in Kentucky. Elvis isn’t dead, he just went home. Hmm. That’s another thing. 40% of Americans take out insurance against Alien Abductions. You do know E.T was a film and not a documentary don’t you?

The trouble is Aliens have the wrong idea, a bad battle plan if you will. First off they come down in flying saucers (serving a cup of tea without a saucer is considered illegal in London) and attempt to take over the world in silver suits. No wonder people over the age of 30 are never scared of the little blighters, to them it’s the 80’s all over again. What with the skin-tight shiny suits, high-pitched voices are the norm, the saucer represents a spinning disco ball and lasers featured in almost every film shot between 1980 and 1989. This means that whilst us young ‘uns are running scared, fearing for our lives, those old fogies hold a party and start singing to ABC- ‘shoot that poison arrow through my heeaartt, shoot that poison arrow’. If our silver suit donning friends (I’m talking about Aliens again now, not old people trying to be trendy) can’t get to land then they start abducting innocent people and, gulp, probing them! You sick sick people! At least do it to people who deserve it, like Michael ‘doesn’t matter if you’re black or white yet it did to me because I’m a child molesting freak’ Jackson, George ‘I’ll see you in the loo in five minutes’ Michael and Charles ‘cough I won a million pounds without cheating cough’ Ingram.

Aliens don’t fair well in videogames either. They always take the upper hand, locking down with tight security and treating the inhabitants of their newly acquired planet like *beep*. However they always seem to be beaten by the humans, but what by remains a mystery. Is it our unbeatable talent to appoint complete idiots as government ministers? The Welsh’s ability to fend off Animal Rights protestors whilst stripping a sheep of all its dignity? America’s annoying habit of storming into a country telling it what to do without actually having a clue how to rectify the situation? Or is it we, the Brits, with unequalled ability to moan about everything, including the weather, and do nothing about it? Who knows, but feel safe in the knowledge that if Mother Earth ever gets invaded by an Alien race then we’ll win in the end. America might assume control of every weapon in sight and then cock it up, France may well surrender straight away, the Dutch may not care because they’re too busy smoking weed, Britain will moan about it and then fail to do anything to stop it, and the Aussies will beat us at cricket as everyone ponders how to reduce the price of tinned carrots, but we’ll win.

The latest game to step forward and say ‘watch humans beat the Aliens, again’ is Space Invaders: Invasion Day. Released at the bargain price of £19.99, this is a must have game, I foolishly thought. The title should have given it away, clearly I wasn’t aware that I would be buying a remake of the earliest videogame known to man. I must have been sniffing something on the way to GAME. That bloke with the bushy beard in front on the bus was smoking something. Actually, anyone could be mistaken. The cover for the title shows a huge Independence Day style space ship from a worms eye view, towering over skyscrapers. Little aliens scamper towards you, clambering through the wreckage strewn across the road. The manual is equally as impressive, the front cover showing a newspaper with the headline ‘Invaders came!’ with a picture of the giant ship. Crikey, something happened here, and someone was pissed. Once past the main menu, Space Invaders comes into its own. The cut-scenes which describe the story of the highest quality, with explosions lighting up the streets, people running for their lives and aliens making their presence ever felt. It starts off with a familiar Independence Day scene, with people on the street just staring into the sky as the alien ship approaches. Cue a collapsing building, and all hell brakes loose. Aliens run after the scared public, hacking them down into the dirt.

You see the stories of three citizens, for once not as a team. First is Naji, a member of a SWAT team whose operation goes horribly wrong. His friend disappears, and after destroying the aliens with a grenade he flees for his life. Next is Ashley, the foxy newsreader searching for her lost boyfriend amongst the carnage. She rides through the streets on a motorbike, and comes to her boyfriends flat. He’s not there, and after a quick shower scene she’s off to find him. Then there’s teenage gang leader Justin. You follow him and his buddies as they out run the green guys through the back streets of the city. Suddenly they end up getting flanked, and following one of the poorest swings of a metal pipe in history, our hero Justin is swiped away into a garbage container and knocked out cold. He awakes just in time to see the aliens kill his friends, and scamper off the find more humans to pester. Walking over to his now deformed friend, he fights back the tears, looks into the carnage on the street and picks up a rifle. Some nifty camera work follows, with the view switching behind him to watch our hero walk into the destructed city. Nothing short of amazing.

Sadly, that’s where everything great ends. There are more great cutscenes, but describing those would ruin the plot. The whole game rotates around an ageing core, that of the arcade hit Space Invaders. I found this a great shame, as after the fantastic build up I was expecting a strong contender to Freedom Fighters. Just imagine running through the debris-ridden streets with a rifle, taking out alien scum who pounce on you in that Silent Hill style. The action would be intense, frightening but very rewarding knowing that you are ridding the city of invaders. Sadly all you get is little stages where you must strafe between oil barrels for cover, pummelling the fire button to rid the streets of little green Martians. The enemies do differ, but can all be killed in the same dull way. If you find yourself pinned down by a ton of them, lob a grenade. This kills large groups but it would have been nicer to see green slime of some sort line the walls at either side as they explode.

At the end of each level (about 3 stages) you fight an incredibly large boss, whose attacks nearly always pose a threat because you can only strafe along once side of him. Being allowed the freedom of running underneath, firing some lead into his knackers would have sufficed, but instead you must stand there like a lemon and dodge his attacks. Very frustrating. I could say ‘yeah, but the game looks good’, and it does. A level down from the cutscenes but still very impressive, you really do get the feeling you are fighting on your own in a city tumbling down around you.

Sammy Studios should have played Freedom Fighters before releasing this tripe. The ability to run around the streets with unlimited freedom, Silent Hill type horror and even Manhunt‘s violence (to an extent) would have got this game into the ‘must have’ category. Instead it’s now jostling for contention alongside Army Men in bargain bins across the country. A waste of bloody time.

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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