Platform: PS4 (tested) | PS3 (tested) | PS Vita (reviewed)
Developer: Puppy Games
Publisher: Curve Studios
PlayStation might not have Titanfall, but it does have Titan Attacks. Which is no bad thing seeing as it hails from Puppy Games, who are a little like a cross between Mister Kipling and Doctor Wily. They make exceedingly good games based on nostalgic tradition, only stuffed full of awesome robots. Having released several years ago on PC, this superb shooter has been polished up almost beyond recognition and lands squarely on PSN - available as a single purchase on PS3, PS4 and PS Vita.
Where, frankly, it deserves your immediate attention if you even have the slightest interest in shoot'em ups. Especially if you also own a PS Vita.
The premise is simple. You control a tank at the bottom of the play field, all that stands between Earth and an armada of 2D aliens. The extraterrestrial attack force gradually advances down the screen with the aim of reaching the fragile planet, blasting down ruinous beams of sizzling death to dodge and weave through, while saucers loom menacingly overhead to... look, it's Space Invaders, alright? We've seen it all before, but trust me, you've never seen it quite so stylish, slick and stuffed full of meaningful upgrades.
Speaking of visuals, let's get all the shiny out the way with first. Titan Attacks looks incredible, both due to its gorgeous HD makeover (the PS4 version's sprites are sharp enough to cut yourself on, while the Vita's OLED screen picks out the fine detail) and Puppy Games' eye for art direction. It's unmistakeably retro, both in terms of the blocky designs of each Titan and even nostalgic scenery elements such as vector asteroids, but brought into the 21st century with a subtly deep colour palette, sumptuous backgrounds and smooth animations. Put simply: it's the smexy kind of drop-dead stunning that isn't just skin deep, but us Dealspwn hacks aren't swayed by a pretty face.
No, what matters to us is gameplay. Thankfully Titan Attacks! more than delivers on that front.
Early levels lull us into a false sense of security by apeing the original Space Invaders with large slow fleets of fragile strafing aliens masking speedy UFOs, allowing us to pick them off with abandon, but wastes no time in ringing the changes. Bombers deny areas with explosive ordinance, massive spiky fortresses rain down neon destruction, while small razor-edged attack craft (which I affectionately refer to as 'Little Spinning B*stards' for reasons that ought to be obvious) delight in bouncing around the screen and keeping you on your toes, not just idly blasting away. Enormous bosses engage you in battles of attrition as you weave through incoming flack, stripping down their turrets and pounding their hulls.
Often a downed enemy will careen towards the Earth in a smoky fireball, granting bonus points if destroyed or damaging you on impact. Titan pilots occasionally parachute towards the ground and require a speedy smiting, else lose you valuable points. Every few levels, there's a new twist and a new tweak to consider, an new obstacle to circumvent and a new threat to destroy with extreme prejudice. It's intense, unpredictable and fiercely good fun.
We need big guns to take down the ever-escalating menace, which is where Titan Attacks' upgrade system comes to the fore. Destroying enemies and completing bonus challenge stages rewards us with persistent currency to spend on extra health or smart bombs, whereas canny players will risk early death by saving up for larger sweeping bonuses. Add-ons bolt new turrets onto our tank, such as fast-firing sniper cannons or enormous slow armour-piercing rounds. We can add more bullets to our salvos, increase fire rate recharge or up the damage of each shot - a must for dealing with more durable foes. This system provides an addictive persistent hook that keeps us playing, but more than that, it's a thrill to watch our fragile tank evolve into a bristling death fortress over the course of the campaign - and beyond if you reach the New Game Plus.
Though not a true game-changing paradigm-shifting evolution of the genre like Space Invaders: Infinity Gene (still one of the bravest and most brilliant SHMUPs of the last console generation), Titan Attacks! is still a seriously superior shooter.
As far as it goes. I personally wish that Puppy Games had expanded the play field to embrace the new widescreen resolution -- you'll effectively play in letterbox mode, whereas a wider arena could have lent itself to more extreme challenges. A greater variety of challenge stages and bosses would have been appreciated too, perhaps alongside a more granular upgrade system that lets us level specific turrets to create a more situational war machine. It's all too easy for us reviewers to get hung up on what we'd like a game to be as opposed to what a game actually is, so I can't and won't factor this into the score to any great extent, but I do feel that a fair amount of potential has still been squandered. Ferociously fun and solid as it is.
Titan Attacks! is a cross-buy title, so you'll get the PS Vita, PS3 and PS4 versions for a single purchase, and won't be surprised to hear that it's content-and-feature-complete across all platforms. However, you might be surprised to hear that, once again, the Vita version is easily the best of the lot. Titan Attacks' pick-up-and-play action is a perfect fit for the portable device and looks glorious on that OLED screen (I haven't tested the newer model, so can't vouch for that) -- and, of course, you can play it on the bus.
I hope that Sony's handheld will be the lead platform for Revenge Of The Titans. The touchscreen will suit its tower defence shenanigans down to the ground.
- Intense and unpredictable action riffs on Space Invaders, but goes far beyond
- Addictive and versatile upgrade system
- Looks sensational, pulse-pounding soundtrack
- Wastes the widescreen resolution
- Arguably could have taken more creative risks
- Better fit for Vita than home consoles
The Short Version: Titan Attacks! is a fantastic SHMUP that packs nostalgia in spades, yet feels fierce, fresh and fun in the execution. Gorgeous visuals, addictive upgrades and unpredictable enemies bring Space Invaders bang up to date in style.