“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”- Charles Darwin
Space Invaders Infinity Gene starts on well-trodden ground. The familiar phalanx of pixelated aliens start their monotonous monochromatic march across the screen as your ship cowers behind its barriers... and then everything changes. Forever. The above Charles Darwin quote flashes across the screen as the traditional formula evolves into something entirely new.
Infinity Gene isn't just an incremental update of a classic franchise. Gaming history is full of cynical attempts at milking a title with a coat of paint masking ancient game mechanics, but this is an entirely new take on the experience. It's a bullet hell shooter with smooth responsive movement and a crisp visual style that mixes the original visuals with stylish vector graphics. The classic feel is still intact, but the core gameplay is brand new and more dynamic than most shooters I've played in recent years. And I've played a lot of shoot 'em ups. Enemy fleets and mid-bosses pour onto the screen in unpredictable formations, requiring players to pull off pinpoint manoeuvres and pay constant attention to the action.
Infinity Gene doesn't just shift up the gameplay once; rather, the core mechanics constantly change in surprising ways. Scoring points in any gametype gradually evolves both the ship, enemies and the level design. These mutations include the ability to move freely around the screen rather than a single plane, different weapons, an increased lives count, bonus levels and even shifts in the colour palette; so by continually improving and changing the experience, players simply don't have the chance to get bored or complacent. Not only that, but these upgrades are persistent and can be both earned and used in any game mode. You rarely see replayability like this on XBLA or PSN, let alone in a SHMUP.
As mentioned before, Infinity Gene features an eyecatching art style that utilises the original sprites with some incredidbly smooth vector graphics and dynamic backdrops. Some would consider it churlish to suggest that IG resembles a latter-day Rez... but hell. It does. The level of visual feedback and strobe effects occasionally becomes headache-inducing, but on the whole it's a unique and beautiful feast for the senses.
A 99 level Challenge Mode and a procedurally-generated music playback feature provide yet more bang for your buck. In fact, it's extremely difficult to fault Taito's latest effort... though it's important to take the following disclaimer into account: Infinity Gene is hardcore. Both the difficulty curve and visual feedback are designed for veteran SHMUP fans with retinas of iron and reflexes honed by years of arcade abuse, and casual gamers will soon find themselves overwhelmed.
- Spot-on shooter mechanics that are constantly evolving
- Persistent ship and weapon evolutions are extremely addictive
- Campaign, challenge mode, bonus levels and music mode provide serious value
- Visual overload can occasionally be too much even for veterans
- Some enemy formations are incredibly cheap
- Multiplayer would have been nice
The Short Version: Space Invaders Infinity Gene is an intense work of twisted genius that will put players through the wringer and spit them out shivering yet genuinely enriched. The graphical style may prove too manic for extended sessions, but the quality and quantity of the experience still proves that Taito's classic franchise can pack a punch today.