An Old Flame, Scorching: Space Invaders Extreme

Battlefield: Bad Company is a video game published by Electronic Arts for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. It's a first-person shooter. That means that in Battlefield: Bad Company you shoot, and the shooting is performed from a first-person perspective.

Okay, let's see here: "Tools"..."Word Count"...43?! That's it?

Hmm. What else to say about Bad Company? Well, the back of the package brags that the game "brings the battlefield to life with spectacular visual effects." That sounds awesome. And the screenshots on the box do look pretty sweet.

Word Count ... 83? Damn!

Aw, screw it. I admit it: I didn't play through Bad Company. I meant to. I even sat down with it once or twice, trying my best to muster the will to write another review of another first-person shooter. The game's big idea, destructible cover, is amusing, at least for a while. And it plays decently, with a sense of humor and a reasonable online mode. It's not a bad game. It just couldn't woo me away from the game I was seeing behind its back: Space Invaders Extreme.

This isn't just a re-release of the 30-year-old classic. Space Invaders Extreme is a full-blown sequel that nicely pairs the fundamentals of the original with just the right amount of modern innovation and flair. And while it never eclipses Pac-Man Championship Edition — the new standard in brilliant remakes of classic games — Space Invaders Extreme sits comfortably in the No. 2 slot, reminding gamers that low-fi, simple gameplay mechanics still can trump modern glitz.

The biggest difference between SIX and its bell-bottomed, mutton-chopped ancestor is the removal of the original's bunkers. In this edition, the only defensive options available to players are evasion or — if you're a cool customer — deflecting incoming fire with your own shots. Otherwise, though, it's just like the Space Invaders that hit the corner arcades in 1978: As rows of invaders march towards Earth, you hold them off with your lone little cannon. It was a winning formula, and Taito wisely doesn't monkey with it here. Instead, all the flourishes and finessing are added around and in between the concept's empty spaces, like little illustrative doodles in the margins of a sacred text.

But while you can approach the game as you would the original — firing on the biggest threats first and systematically working your way through the fleet — SIX rewards players who are more strategic. For example: Shoot down four blue enemies in a row, and the last drops a laser cannon that, for a few gleeful seconds, will evaporate any alien in its path — except the "reflect" types, which bounce the laser cannon right back at you. So with these pesky bastards, you're better off shooting down four red in a row for bombs. Although those have disadvantages, too, so maybe you should grab a shield. But then again, with a shield — well, you get the idea.

SIX fleshes out the rest of the game with all the standard features modern gamers look for, plus a few new ones. Bonus rounds, score modifiers, chain combos, even boss battles make appearances. But the two-player versus mode is the real treat. It plays more like a puzzle game than a pure shooter; destroyed enemies make up a fleet that you launch against Player 2 by hitting "send" — shooting down one of the passing, high-altitude UFOs from the original.

Even the look and sound of the game fits Taito's design philosophy: Enemies appear in their original pixilated glory against kaleidoscopic backgrounds, marching to the tune of something between disco and trance music.

So, yeah: I'm quite sorry, Bad Company. You're a fine game. Really. And I'm sure you'll make some other gamer very happy. But I've decided to go back to my first love.

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Gary Hodges
Contact: Gary Hodges