A surprise piece of software from unsung developer King of the Jungle (its last title, Agent Armstrong, never came out here), Invasion From Beyond arrives like a bolt out of the blue and adds an exciting new take on the "vehicular combat" genre. While not conceived in a Twisted Metal/Vigilante 8 sort of way, there are many things that fans of those other games will find familiar here. As a member of a group assigned to investigate the arrival of, and ultimately protect the world from, an invading armada of space aliens, you take command of an aircraft and set out to do battle in this mission-based shooter.
Similarities between Invasion and other vehicular shooters like Vigilante 8 include fully destructible 3D environments, frenetic action, and awesome light sourcing. The thing that separates Invasion from other games of this nature, aside from the 1950s B-movie premise, is the dazzling 50-60fps speed of the game engine.
During the course of the game, you will receive a large number of mission objectives, which are read in the mission subscreen. After each message you receive from your HQ, you will be given any number of instructions, ranging from escort assignments, to protecting scientists, to simply shooting down as many UFOs as possible. Control is well thought out and has brought some interesting new twists to the usual aim-and-shoot control schemes. By moving the targeting cursor, instead of the ship, it is easier to track alien ships from this third-person perspective than you'd expect. Although it takes a little getting used to, it enables the gamer to rely on skill rather than some cheesy auto-aiming function.
The ambiance in Invasion is awesome. The UFOs hover and buzz so "realistically" you'll hardly be able to contain yourself as HQ tells you to "hold your fire." Not all UFOs move the same. Huge motherships and carriers move slowly and ominously, while fighter ships zip around like wasps on a summer day. Fortunately, you're able to power up your ship during the course of each mission. You can also upgrade you ship in between missions if you rescue enough scientists. With over 30 missions, of differing complexity, you can be sure you won't finish this game anytime soon.
The sound effects and soundtrack are simply excellent. Crisp, clear explosions and authentic '50s-style orchestrations immerse you in this campy riot. Lasers sound like "laser beams," while UFOs make a buzzing noise that will make you want to shoot them down like the pesky buggers that they are. Should you manage to defeat the game, with all of the scientists found, further secrets await you.
The downside to all this high-paced action is that the environments are kind of small. While you'll encounter no invisible boundaries here, as soon as you fly past one border you'll arrive back on the opposite side, like in Asteroids. This isn't a big deal, but it should be noted, since it doesn't take very long to fly "out of bounds." The other thing that tends to interrupt the flow of the game is the mission objectives that come beeping at you very quickly, sometimes as much as five times per level. In order to access the instructions, you need to press the select button, which will switch you to a mission objectives screen. This breaks up the flow and perhaps would have been better if the instructions were audio cues with subtitles on the bottom of the screen. In the long run, though, this minor annoyance doesn't really detract from this stellar game.
In a period where cookie-cutter games are the norm and new, innovative ideas are a rarity, it's nice to see such a fresh game emerge from a relatively unknown developer. What King of the Jungle has achieved here is impressive and bodes well for future efforts from this fledgling collection of industry veterans. In any case, Invasion From Beyond is a keeper.