A unique take on a classic shooter, with previously unseen powerups/downs, which truly enhance the gameplay. Smooth local multiplayer for up to four players. Three game types, each with its own unique gameplay elements and tons of levels. Local highscores and many options. Not just another button basher, but it sure is a blast!
Space Invaders has been in vogue lately, either as seen in pixelated retro artwork and crafts or in any of the official sequels and inspired clones. The recently released Space Invaders Infinity Gene is the latest in a short line of sequels starting with Space Invaders Extreme, a sequel released some 30 years after the original gaming classic's arcade debut. Xbox Indies has seen its fair share of remakes as well, and the one thing all of these games have in common is abandoning precision shots in favor of waves of death. There's no skill needed in Decimation X and radiangames Crossfire to dispatch enemies as those games' ships unleash their death waves, and the same goes for the shooter genre as a whole, something these remakes have fully embraced. Shooters are more about projectile avoidance now, and it's been that way for some time, decades even, and that's exactly why Krazy Alienz is so refreshing to play. It not only does Space Invaders better than any of the recent remakes, but it also harkens back to a time where shooters were about shooting, challenging players with its enemies instead of simply parading them around as cannon fodder.
Krazy Alienz by JK's Games is at its best an exceedingly faithful clone of Space Invaders, right down to the number of rows and patterns of the aliens. Aside from the familiar green aliens being where the blue oval blobs should be and vice versa, the layout and gameplay initially feels like a colorized port of the original arcade game, and with most options turned off, it can be. Krazy Alienz without frills plays just like the original with the player piloting a horizontally moving wide ship along the ground, firing its pea shot up into the advancing horde and trying to take them all out before they reach the ground. The graphics are unquestionably improved over the original, but I'm not crazy about the cartoony style of the aliens nor the way they fidget on their way down the screen. Otherwise fluid animation is made less impressive due to the rapid way they advance through the frames, and the Saturday morning color scheme looks garish and unappealing. On the plus side, in a game which rewards precision shooting, all of the targets are clearly identifiable against the dark space backdrop, and the additions of the Krazy Alien and power-ups add some visual flair to the game.
Unfortunately, it's that same Krazy Alien and power-ups which make Krazy Alienz less appealing. The UFOs which fly across the screen drop bouncing balls which can be collected or shot to collect the bonus inside. These bonuses offer a number of effects including shrinking the aliens, removing the shields, and having them take an additional hit before vanishing. While the player does have some beneficial power-ups, they weigh in the invaders' favor, and these bonuses cheapen the traditional Space Invaders gameplay. The Krazy Alien is a large alien character which will pop out from the sides to congratulate the player on a good shot, and I found it rather odd to see it exclaim "Bitchin'!" given the otherwise kid-friendly graphics and gameplay. Thankfully, these and other added features can be turned off, but doing so diminishes any hope of landing a spot on the high score list as the player forfeits the ability to trigger the bonus round power-up which takes him or her to one of the other game modes in between rounds for more scoring opportunities. The bonuses just do not feel balanced to me given the gameplay, as the player must quickly target the aliens in Space Invaders with little time to waste chasing after bouncing balls let alone to deal with the consequences late in a round.
With the options off, however, I was able to enjoy the game for what it is: a Space Invaders target shooting game. The game gives bonus points for "Side-splitter" (shooting an alien right in the middle) and "Sharp-shooter" (shooting a bullet) shots, and each round concludes with a chart listing the players' accuracy and other shooting statistics. Beyond the basic Space Invaders game, Krazy Alienz also offers two other game modes: Blaster and Skill-shot. Blaster removes the aliens and focuses on sending out waves of UFOs dropping now deadly bouncing balls which must be evaded or shot. Skill-shot takes the Space Invaders formula but highlights one specific alien to be targeted; hitting another target robs the player of a life, making it a great high pressure mode. These two modes add some nice variety to Krazy Alienz, though Skill-shot's random alien selection can be frustrating at times as the invaders draw near, often refusing to highlight the one closest to the ground.
I do wonder if shooter fans can be receptive to such a game. Games such as Krazy Alienz used to be the norm but have since been regulated to the shadows as games from Thunder Force to Gunbird to Death Smiles have changed what it means to be a shooter in the present day. Despite some qualms with the visual aesthetic, I rather enjoyed Krazy Alienz for its simple arcade thrills, and I'd love to see more shooters adopt this seemingly lost style of gameplay where aiming matters. Until then, I'll be satisfied with Krazy Alienz filling my classic shooting fix.