Last year’s Space Invaders Extreme was a lively update to the classic franchise. With complex enemy waves, new weapons, and a color-coded matching system, it offered a huge leap in both aesthetics and gameplay. Space Invaders Extreme 2 is similarly spirited, weaving explosive visuals and sound effects into gripping shooting action. However, despite some tweaks, the game feels too similar to last year's game. The good news is that it's also just as fun as its predecessor and takes things a small step further for those who are intimate with the depths of the original's gameplay system.
Of course, if you never touched Space Invaders Extreme, this sequel will feel just as refreshing as the original did. Space Invaders Extreme 2 follows the basic concept of the original Space Invaders: You have a cannon that moves horizontally across the bottom of the screen and have to destroy a grid of slowly descending aliens before they breach your position. Things begin simply enough, but as you proceed further into the game, you'll be assaulted by aliens that fire all manner of projectiles at you, defend themselves with reflective shields, descend and detonate for area damage, teleport short distances, and more. To top it all off, each of the five stages in the main game concludes with a battle against a mammoth boss (made up of obscenely large pixels, naturally).
You can elect to just blindly fire at your foes and have a good time, but taking advantage of the game's color-matching, weapon, fever, and bingo systems to maximize your point total will prove more satisfying. The more points you score, the more powerful your normal weapon becomes. Taking down four consecutive enemies of the same color will yield one of four different weapon power-ups (active for a limited time), while executing this feat twice in a row gives you the opportunity to partake in a bonus round. During these, a large enemy or group of enemies will spawn on the top screen of the DS, and you win the round by destroying them within 30 seconds--provided that you can shoot past the regular invaders trying to impede your progress on the bottom screen. Completing this objective launches fever mode, during which you can gleefully mow down enemies with an enhanced version of your current weapon and collect bonus points.
A lot of small tweaks have been made for the sequel; for instance, you no longer need to worry about particular enemy shapes in order to activate bonus rounds. A more noticeable change is the addition of the bingo system. This presents you with a 3-by-3 grid of dual-colored tiles on the top screen. If you complete a bonus round and its ensuing fever mode, the tile corresponding to the two colors you used to launch said bonus round will fill in. Getting three in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally will launch bingo fever, which is really just a more hectic version of the normal fever mode that includes large pink bonus chips for you to collect from fallen enemies. It's supposed to be an extension of the original fever, and while it's just another opportunity to accumulate a massive score--and to see more crazy flashing lights--it still gives you something to strive for besides just mashing on the fire button at random enemies.
Otherwise, the structure is mostly the same. You go through a main game consisting of five stages, which begin to branch after you pass the second one for a total of 11 distinct stages to play through. Hitting every stage through multiple play-throughs unlocks an extreme difficulty mode, which adds different waves of enemies and boss behaviors to the original stages. A new Time Attack mode gives you a different goal to shoot for other than playing just for points, though you simply play the same main game against the clock. The incentive to take every branch, and the noticeably different extreme versions of each stage, give the game a decent chunk of replay value, but it's a little disappointing that developer Taito saw fit to limit the game once again to five progressive stages. Having some more, or at least different, weapons would have gone further to make this second iteration more refreshing, but only the four weapons from the previous game are included.
There are online leaderboards, and head-to-head multiplayer games can be played both locally and via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. This provides some more incentive to keep playing, and there's a lot of fun to be had with the raucous seesaw gameplay in which you and a friend can send waves of invaders and large UFOs at one another as you get progressively better. Again, Taito made some small tweaks to the original's multiplayer mode but stayed away from major changes or additions. It remains fun and hectic, but it doesn't feel new.
The zany moving background motif from the first game returns in full force here with all-new animations, and it's just as fun to watch this time around--until enemy projectiles start getting lost in the commotion. At that point, which comes sooner rather than later, the visual style becomes a little irritating. You still have the option to turn it off, at which point you're left with rather mundane, pixelated sprites. The audio continues to shine, however, with a catchy, trippy soundtrack supplemented by your gun's sound effects synched to the beat of the music. In fact, pressing the fire button to the beat of the music may very well induce a Zen-like state: You might feel like you're playing better (even if you really aren't).
Sure, it's a bit of a letdown that Space Invaders Extreme 2 doesn't do much that's different from the first game in the series. Those who have had their fill of the original probably won't get much out of the tweaks and bingo system. However, if you've never had the opportunity to experience the first Space Invaders Extreme, or if you've turned it inside out and are dying for new enemy waves and another reason to shoot the snot out of pixelated aliens, Taito's second offering is a good way to kill time.