Whether it was in a smoky arcade or in a crummy console compilation, the human race has been blasting the evil aliens of Space Invaders for the last 30 years. With Space Invaders Get Even, you get the chance to swap roles and learn the horrifying truth behind the nefarious villains' destructive purposes: that blowing up Earth with explosive firepower is awesome. The poorly planned release of this WiiWare game, however, is disappointing in spite of the hefty amount of hectic fun to be had. Sadly, executing the intergalactic apocalypse is a brief endeavor unless you're willing to pay to prolong the experience.
As a lethal flying saucer, you'll take to the skies and lay waste to Earth by combining quick reflexes and tactics using Get Even's easily accessible controls. Your UFO is surrounded by a legion of 100 candy-colored invader units that look like pastel versions of their monochromatic ancestors. These units are your weapons, and they will move into different formations as you cycle through your attack options with a tap of the B button. Each formation corresponds to a different attack in your arsenal, which ranges from machine-gun fire to missiles to bombs, and includes crazier things, such as a powerful drill or a bouncing spring. If you find yourself in trouble, summoning a gigantic mothership as a screen-clearing special attack can save you from overwhelming enemy numbers. Your ship doesn't have a health bar, but switching between its attack and evasive modes is essential to avoiding damage-induced time penalties, and you'll find that the inability to use your weapons in exchange for increased speed is a fair trade when under heavy fire. Getting hit by laser beams not only lowers the clock, but also kills off your miniature minions. A smaller team means you'll deal less damage, so you'll occasionally have to stop to revive them with a couple of quick controller shakes before carrying on.
The sum of these design ideas is a massively entertaining mix of action and strategy that's fast, frenetic, and far less mindless than you might expect. Citywide carnage is essential to adding precious seconds to the ticking timer that counts down to your failure. You'll constantly have to decide whether you want to lay heavy damage on a large area with your bomb attack, slaughter a single enemy with the drill, or release a bouncing bunch of invaders on a group of tanks. It'll be tough for you to protect your ship without considering which of the equally useful weapons would best suit the situation, so don't expect to attack without thinking about how you're going to do it.
The objectives are well suited to the arcade nature of the game and include tasks such as destroying four national monuments, chasing a series of superpowered vehicles, and going toe-to-toe with a gigantic tank. Ripping the densely packed and brightly colored 3D environments to shreds will keep you smiling throughout, but there's very little staying power to the five-minute missions unless you're a fan of leaderboards. Uploading your scores and comparing them to the international ladder is easy to get hooked on. Unfortunately, the absence of a difficulty modifier means that each map is essentially the same each time you play it, so levels are a breeze the second or third time through. The only way to expand your horizons is by spending additional real-world cash to unlock the different aircraft that accompany each set of extra missions.
It's because of Get Even's limited offerings that it's ultimately such a questionable purchase. A huge chunk of its diversity is locked behind a triple threat of $5 pay-and-play packs, each of which contains six new levels--twice the content of the core game for the same price. Not only do the new missions offer fresh assignments, like abducting cows and rescuing allies, but the twists on existing game types significantly extend each level's length. Blowing 20 special structures to smithereens isn't a huge change, but the increased enemy resistance offers a bit more of a challenge. Also, new aircraft with unique weapons are included in each of the downloadable packages, and they'll change how you tackle each of your goals. These extras are excellent additions to Space Invaders Get Even and are unquestionably worth the money if you want to add longevity to the otherwise short-lived fun. It's just a shame that the extra content isn't available as one download.
Get Even doesn't take itself too seriously, which makes for some amusing dialogue exchanges between the unseen human characters. Listening to terrified commanders exclaim about their inability to accurately attack 2D enemies and hearing younger officers' constant references to geeky things like their fathers' 30-year-old Space Invaders strategies provides plenty of chuckles. Sadly, a huge portion of the game's lovable sense of humor is also concealed within the extra content. Highlights of the hidden laughs include frightened farmers crying in comic confusion as you steal their bovine livestock and an entire stage that's a nerdy nod to the original Metal Gear. These bonuses are unavailable to those who only pay the price for the core game, and while they're not a huge aspect of why Get Even is entertaining, they certainly reinforce the overall charm, as do the classic sound effects that periodically pop up through the controller's speaker.
Five dollars isn't a lot of money by any stretch of the imagination, but Get Even's limited offerings will make you wonder why its content wasn't bundled together and offered as a single game. It's a huge bummer that the pay-to-play extra missions are a necessity if you're going to pick up this table-turning homage to the timeless shooter, because as a complete package, Space Invaders Get Even is an arcade delight. Flying around as a UFO and wrecking everything in sight is absolutely awesome. If you spend the full $20, you get a mighty fine, if overpriced, single-player game. Since the majority of the gameplay is only available when you buy the downloadable content, Get Even feels like a demo with a price tag on it.