I’m kind of chasing the boat here – Space Invaders: Infinity Gene is almost six months old. Thankfully for me, the iTunes store’s completely backwards content ranking conspires to keep gems like this buried, and the nature of mobile gaming keeps these things more or less evergreen. If you’re picking up or recieving a new iPhone this holiday season, go straight for this. If you haven’t bought this yet, go straight for this. Of all the games I’ve foolishly impusle purchased, Infinity Gene is the one that keeps me coming back.
The game is more or less the complete evolution of the shooting genre, evolving from a basic Space Invaders prelude to a fully blown bullet hell twitchfest, increasing in complexity stage by stage. The references to shooting games past are understated but strong – the game is tied around an unlock system very much like hyper-obscure cult favourate Judgement Silversword, slowly feeding you bonus levels, option screen goodies and such trivial things like being able to move forwards and backwards as well as side to side. There’s a scrolling battle against a mothership that doffs a cap to R-Type. The weird evolutionary theme, trance music and clean vector graphic stylings recall Dreamcast classic Rez, as do the abstract bosses. The game goes beyond being a faithful tribute to Space Invaders and let’s face it: Space Invaders is kind of dull. The people who made this game know how to pay tribute to the past while being fully aware of what sucked about it – it feels a lot like an indie game in the way it takes risks, but thankfully only skirts trying to be “deep” or “important”. Charles Darwin gets a few namechecks, that’s about as bad as it gets.
iPhone games live or die in their ability to deliver short, sharp gameplay and adaption to the system’s non-standard touch controls. Infinity Gene passes both tests stylishly – you can beat a level in a minute or two, and the solution to the problem of controlling a twitch shooter is elegant as hell – just tap and drag your ship with a finger anywhere on the screen, while the autofire handles the shooting. It works effectively and cleanly – there’s no junk like a fake joystick icon to clutter up the screen and ruin the nearly-perfect retro graphics (think scrolling wireframe grids and tequila sunrise backdrops. A neat bonus feature allows you to generate levels from your MP3 collection – anything from Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die album seems to create insanely fast, insanely tough levels full of bullets and assholes. Does your Jonas Brothers folder contain the most bitching Space Invaders Infinity Gene level ever? Will you accept this challenge?
And hey – if being a good game isn’t enough for you, the 1980s retro feel and clumsy Darwin references will win you the adoration of your games-are-art hipster friends. You’ll be the toast of the town while they weep into their 5000 page essays on the philosophy of Final Fantasy VII! Buy this game and become a winner.