Most side scrolling shooters involve aircraft of some sort, but few are taken from the viewpoint of the “bad guys”. This is, however, the scenario of Invasion Earth: 1953, a post-Roswellian look at aliens trying to take over our beloved planet. That’s basically it for a plot, and there’s not a lot of variety to the action. What keeps drawing me back into the game however, are the (sometimes insane) goals and that need to try “just one more time” to reach them. Invasion Earth doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles of many of its peers, but it has a satisfyingly addictive quality about it anyway.
You are in control of a UFO from an invading alien force, and your job is to take out as many of earth’s fighters as you can before you succumb to their onslaught of weaponry. To do this you’ll fly across the city landscape, blasting everything in sight. You have a main weapon that gets upgraded when you pick up special little stars that certain enemies leave. There are also a slew of stars of a different type that fill up a power meter, and when that meter is full you can choose between three items: a shield, a laser and a magnet. The other two items are pretty obvious in nature, and the magnet draws the stars to you for a short period of time so you don’t have to pick them up.
Enemies are basically of two varieties: boss and everything else. The non-boss enemies might be helicopters or jets and they come in a couple of designs as well as sporting different types of ammo and shooting patterns. A few shots and they are dead, leaving behind stars for you to collect. Bosses so far have come in one of two ship designs, and they get their own life meter at the bottom of the screen that you must quash before they will go away. Every so often you will also encounter a bonus round which is comprised of you, a bunch of pickups and several buildings that you must fly through. The bonus rounds are actually quite fun, especially when the buildings start falling down and debris flies at you. Bonus rounds are the only place where you can pick up health packets. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a mode that added enemy ships to traversing the buildings.
The real thrill with Invasion Earth is in completing the goals. You start off with three goals, and when you complete those goals you’ll earn something in return. Then you get a new set of goals, and the sequence repeats ad infinitum (or until things to earn run out, I suppose). Goals might be something like “kill X number of ships in one game” or “get 5 health pickups total”. The cool thing about goals is that they don’t have to be earned in one game unless explicitly stated or it only makes sense that way. For instance, earning 100,000 high score can’t be split across two games! Sometimes the goals seem over the top, but in the end they are all pretty reasonable, and the bonuses you get are usually worth it. I’m not 100% sure, but I think the bonuses are permanent once you’ve earned them as well.
Controlling the craft is actually a bit odd. It uses a relative control scheme, where the ship moves based on your finger but doesn’t need to be right next to it. The problem with this is that when bullet dodging gets intense I feel like I spend a lot of time readjusting my finger, which means moments that I’m not moving my craft around. At least firing is automatic, and when you select a special weapon the game actually pauses so there is no risk of getting hurt. I just wish there were either an absolute positioning option or a virtual joystick available as choices.
The visuals are great. Once you get past the fact that the background often feels like something ripped from a Fred Flintstone cartoon (a segment of buildings repeated over and over again) you’ll realize that the buildings look pretty cool. I especially like the partially gutted ones on the bonus round. The ships are nothing too special in design, but they all look good. The fact that you can see the next set of ships approaching in the distance is cool as well. The one thing I don’t like is how the screen gets fuzzy as you’re close to death. Give me a health meter and leave me screen alone, because that gets annoying!
The sound effects are decent enough – pretty much what you’d expect from a scrolling shooter. Listening to the buildings fall down in later bonus levels is kind of nifty. I do wish that the general and robot that popped up from time to time had actual voices instead of just printed dialog. The music, on the other hand, is quite enjoyable. It really helps get the adrenaline pumping, and is a perfect fit style-wise for this type of game.
As my faithful readers will know, I’m always on the quest to find the prefect scrolling shooter. I’ve come across a couple that are really close, but this is not one of them. However, for its somewhat simplistic nature and repetitive game play, it still manages to be strangely addictive. If you’ve ever wanted to be the forerunner in an alien invasion, now’s your chance!
Overall Score: 7/10
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