Published on March 7th, 2015 | by Lee Davies
Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: PlayStation Network, Steam,
Publisher: Curve Digital
Website: Titan Attacks!
Shoot! Dodge! Shoot some more. You know the basic premise of Space Invaders. Wait, I can only shoot vertically upwards, yes it is Space Invaders. In all but name this is the nearest a clone of Space Invaders has made it to the feeling of the original in recent iterations, for good and bad. Don’t get me wrong, this even takes into account the sublime Space Invaders Extreme (and its follow up Space Invaders Extreme 2) which completely revamped an arcade classic that surpassed everything about the original and added so much more, unique bonus stages, humungous and memorable boss fights, and an awesome pounding electronic soundtrack, which every shot fired added to the music as if playing a rhythm game. It is with an extremely high reverence that I hold both the latter Taito games to my heart. If Titan Attacks! can do half of what Space Invaders Extreme did, we’re onto a winner.
As the last surviving tank commander on Earth, you are tasked with single-handedly turning back the evil invading alien army, drive back the Titans across the Solar System, and defeat them on their homeworld…
Titan Attacks! plays its form of Space Invaders straight. During the game’s levels there are no surprises. There are 5 worlds to play through each with roughly 20 levels and finished off with a Boss encounter. If you are fast enough each level will take you no more than 30 seconds to dispatch all the enemy Titans. So, the 100 levels that are boasted about in the press release and videos are all rather short-lived affairs that play exactly the same as old-school Space Invader-style shooters. Shoot a fleet of enemies who are slowly scrolling back and forth and dropping the occasional missile. Shot down enemy spaceships can sometimes turn into a dive bombing kamikaze style attempts to destroy you. Shoot these before they hit the ground for extra bonuses, namely points or money. Sometimes an enemy pilot will parachute out to safety from their disabled falling ship. It is these that you could shoot, or catch, with each successful capture bringing in more money. An unsuccessful catch, however, penalizes you by taking some hard earned cash away from your accumulated total. Later on variety is injected with falling meteors, proximity bomb drops, etc., but one thing remains constant within each level, and that’s your tank. There are no upgrades to be had whilst playing in a level, except for a shield, and money. Your primary goal is to collect money through skill shots and the like to spend after each level in an upgrade shop.
Upgrades to your tank come in standard flavours. Shields and Gun Power can be upgraded eight times. Extra Bullets that enable a faster rate of firing, screen clearing SmartBombs, Add-Ons provide extra guns, and Recharge lets your Add-Ons shoot faster. Each upgrade cost more than the previous and an element of strategy ensues early on in your purchasing decisions. Do you buy additional shield slots for survival or save for an expensive upgrade whilst hoping you can survive the next level without taking damage. It’s a nice element of strategy, and the most innovative element, of a game that plays everything else so safe and short-lived that I wish it could be taken further.
There are a few elements that do try and shake the standard formula up, but they are so few and far between to mean very little to the whole package. Boss levels arrive at the very end of each World and tend to take the meaning of a difficulty curve to vertical levels. The levels preceding a Boss encounter are so much easier than the Boss itself, that it may be frustrating to some to have to repeat a level over and over again only to stumble at the last hurdle against an enemy who at first seems to be firing in a straight line and you have no way to get under it without taking 2 or 3 hits. Some of the Bosses just require you to stock up your Shields to maximum and blast away as fast as possible. It’s just a frustrating affair when you go into a Boss encounter with 3 shields and there is no way in hell that you can complete it with so little protection. The other different style of level is the non-firing fast moving saucers, known as the Challenge Stages. These must be dispatched with high percentages. Shoot down over 80% of the Saucers to secure a ‘prize’. Yay! I won a single shield bar, or a Smart Bomb, hmmm the cheapest items to buy in the shop. So, not such good prizes after all.
It is most certainly very pleasing to see online leader boards that allow friend and the whole community’s scores to be browsed easily and quickly. Miiverse is fully implemented, but with no stereoscopic 3D being employed the game seems incomplete. The graphics, which are simplistic in their backgrounds and static, some might say boring, do have some nice looking enemy space ships that look very chunky filled with retro-delight. Effects and explosions are pleasing pixilated to showcase a smooth rate of frames throughout the entire campaign, for whatever happens on-screen. However, I did come across some glitches of undetected dive bombing enemies falling through the floor, and not returning to their starting position in the sky, demanding a reset of the game, and the loss of level progression.
Music, and I just can’t help but hark back to a comparison to Space Invaders Extreme, is just not up to scratch. It’s solid enough and ticks all the retro boxes, but it just doesn’t add anything to the gameplay as the latter game did. The effects and music are so separated that I could quite easily have had the music turned off. Effects in this type of game are important and they don’t disappoint in some areas. Whether it’s directly hitting an enemy or having one screaming in its kamikaze fall run, the effects are loud and explosive as they should be. The only points where the effects let me down was in its use to let me know when I had been hit. I would often leave a level to scratch my head in wonder at how I went into the stage with 4 shield bars, but ended with 3.
If you are in the 3DS market for a Space Invaders style shooter then you can’t go all that wrong with Titan Attacks! It is a very solid game that plays its style of Invaders very straight, just don’t expect any innovative new features. The game, however, is let down by a severe lack of content and a high price point for that limited content. A better choice may be to pick up a copy of the wonderful Space Invaders Extreme, seeing as the 3DS is backwards compatible.
Summary: A very simple 'new' version of an old school classic that fails to innovative on anything other than upgrades. Looks nice and plays nice, but a small overall package for a high price point. The far better Space Invaders Extreme did everything so right.