We’re trying not to be distracted by the truly terrible title, but ugh, just look at it. Sure, it makes it more Google-friendly than ‘Invasion’, but at what cost. At. What. Cost.
A review focused on an abysmal game title wouldn’t be much cop, so luckily there are other things to complain about with Envasion. Because this tanks vs. spaceships shooter is as ungainly and inelegant as they come. We wondered whether we would have been better off facing a space invasion in a pedalo.
Envasion slides in snugly in the gap between Missile Command and Space Invaders. You are a tank that can scuttle, crab-like, left and right, on the bottom of the screen. In swoops spaceships, and it’s your job to clear them before they obliterate you. So, you’re firing primary and secondary weapons with the shoulder bumpers in combination with the second analogue stick, while unleashing hell with slow-mo and smartbombs on the triggers.
Except there’s a reason that tanks are pretty much the last vehicle you’d choose to face off against airborne units. The spaceships move with a large degree of speed and manouverability in a 3D space, and, well, a tank doesn’t. So, Envasion already has a problem to solve: how can it make tank-versus-spaceship combat satisfying?
The answer is ‘with some difficulty’. To Envasion’s credit, it does try to speed up the player’s tank. With a jab of the analogue stick, you can glide from one end of the screen to the other in a matter of milliseconds. When multiple salvos of missiles are coming your way, this level of evasion is needed. There’s a lot of running away going on in Envasion.
If the spaceships stayed, Space Invaders-style, at the top of the screen and drifted down, then everything would be fine. But Envasion shoots itself in its own kneecaps by constantly bringing the enemies close to the floor. Small ships, barely a few pixels in size, hover in the bottom-left and bottom-right corner of the screens. Trigonometry fans will anticipate a problem here: if there are enemies firing at the player while a couple of inches above the floor, then those bullets will sweep across the floor and become pretty much unblockable. It’s just not satisfying.
Then there’s the spread of bullets. Get hit by an enemy bullet and a tiny sliver of your health bar will fall off. When enemies are killed, they often collapse into health pick-ups, so it’s easy(ish) to replenish. But in Envasion, the ships love to swoop in for more than just a cuddle: in fact, they hardly ever stay at the top of the screen. This means that their shotgun-like volleys can concentrate on a single point, i.e. the player. Which means death. Sudden death. From a full health bar all the way to the bottom in a millisecond. Again, it’s not exactly satisfying to meet a level end, just because you got hit once.
The feeling of having a hand tied behind the back is strong with Envasion. The guns, while varied, are odd choices for the enemies you’re facing. A charged railgun is too precise and sniper-like when you’re facing off against swarms of tiny, pixel-sized ships. You can also play with and upgrade some allied tanks, but they anticipate enemies offscreen, shooting them before you can, meaning you’re left with nothing. They then hoover up the health pickups so you can’t have them.
The overriding feeling is that you, the player, are the least powerful entity on the screen. Ships are more maneuverable and capable of one-hitting you. Your allies can clear the screen of enemies before you’ve even popped the safety off. And there you are, locked to the bottom of the screen, scampering away from bullets and trying to get a kill in edgeways. It’s not wholly empowering.
Nor is it varied. There are two enemy types, maybe three if we’re being generous (since one is a larger form of the other), with the odd coloured variant. That’s not a lot to play with when populating thirteen levels with multiple waves in each. The result is a feeling that you’ve been here before, and we were yawning when we weren’t getting scuttled by enemy ships.
We’ve gone straight in for the kill with Envasion, not because we hated that flipping title, but because we’re eager to see Envasion succeed. It’s onto something interesting, and there is some quality in the peripheral RPG stuff.
There’s a menu between levels where you can buy upgrades to your ship and wingmen. It’s about the ugliest interface you’ll ever see, and it’s fairly unintuitive, but there’s a decent amount of choice to be had in terms of weapon loadouts and what you upgrade and when. You might opt for a railgun focused build, sniping enemies while your allies spray the screen with bullets, for example. It’s not hugely deep, but these RPG-lite bits were welcome.
And there’s a frankly ridiculous number of difficulty modes. If you’re interested in seeing how things escalate through them, as you defeat all thirteen waves (including a ridiculous difficulty spike in the final boss), then the option is very much there. We would have liked a cooperative mode, though, particularly as AI pals are already present.
Regardless, there’s a common thread to almost all top-drawer shoot ’em ups: they make you feel like overpowered killing machines, and then ramp up the opposition to match. But Envasion never made us feel powerful: quite the opposite. Locked to the bottom of the screen with some limp ordnance, we felt like we were pew-pewing our way through too many enemies.
While there are some interesting RPG frills around the edges of Envasion, this is a Space Invaders-like shooter that lacks speed, bombast and variety. Envasion, sadly, is one to evoid.