Ever thought how incredible it would be to play Space Invaders from a first-person perspective? Of course you have! Space Invaders is one of the landmark games that has defined gaming as a whole. Much like people refer to Pong being the catalyst of gaming, Space Invaders marches ahead with a faster paced and more elaborate concept. Super Destronaut: Land Wars on the Xbox One decides to look back at those gaming roots and find a way to incorporate them into a modern setting. Complete with generational throwbacks and a pulsating score pushing you forward, it’s both a look to the past and an indication of gaming by today’s standards. Juggling these two concepts is a hard task though, one which Super Destronaut: Land Wars never manages to grasp.
The general concept of Super Destronaut: Land Wars on the Xbox One is infusing Space Invaders with a first-person approach. Gone is the wide open space that the influence brought to the table, instead what we have is a fully realised world, reminiscent to the cyberpunk style of Tron. It’s an explosion of neon soaked colours, like a child who’s eaten a massive bag of skittles and dramatically projectile vomited all over the environment. The aim still remains the same though – survive multiple waves of enemies with a devastating arsenal of weapons and upgrades.
How this is done is through a plethora of game modes – some better than others. What could be considered the main campaign is the challenge mode. Here you’re placed in different arenas all equipped with a different task, whether that be slaying all enemies, collecting enough coins or reaching a certain multiplier. None of these tasks are particularly interesting, mainly due to the fact it takes a while before the arenas are filled with enemies. This results in many challenges having you aimlessly scour the environment for invaders to decimate, like a child lost in aisle 12 at your local supermarket.
Thankfully once the rounds become more challenging so too do the amount of enemies the game throws at you. Still, it’s a downright slog to get to these points. None of the challenges are particularly interesting either and are over far too quickly. With 30 or so challenges, there should be more room for experimentation. Instead, it comes across as a bunch of objectives that were conjured in a magical objective maker.
The gunplay remains fairly solid though, with multiple varieties of weapons to wield. All of this is purchasable from an upgrades board, which can be found at the spawning point of most arenas. Here coins can be spent to possess new weapons from punchy shotguns to explosive rocket launchers. Each weapon feels weighty enough and packs enough power, but it feels like a missed opportunity to interject more experimental varieties outside of the odd laser rifle. Purchasing these upgrades can also be a pain, as all arenas maintain the same palette of colours and environmental setting, meaning it can be unnecessarily challenging to find the point in which it resides.
There are other modes to invest your time into as well, and these thankfully have more challenge and contain more interest than the lacklustre challenge mode. The most basic resides in classic mode, which pits you against waves and waves of deadly enemies. The same problem raises its ugly head, being that it takes a substantial amount of time for anything to become particularly interesting and by the time it has your interest has dwindled. Thankfully, hardcore mode drops you a few waves in, straight into thicker action and tougher enemies. This feels much more reminiscent of what the game should be, but for a mode that references itself in being hardcore it still lacks any defining challenge.
Other modes provide some interesting ideas, but nothing to fully pique your interests. Snail mode is the absolute worst, ensuring that your player speed is slowed down and removing your ability to jump – it’s a slog. Combo breaker aims to ensure you keep a high combo up at all times, while maximum strength kits you out with all the best tools to go forth and have some fun. They’re fun little diversions, but nothing that will contain your interest for an extended period of time.
As mentioned, Super Destronaut: Land Wars on the Xbox One is a neon migraine waiting to happen. It’s colours are reminiscent of an 80’s pub quiz machine, but the enemy designs embody everything that makes Space Invaders so nostalgic. Much like those enemies, they all possess different skills, whether that be teleporting or bouncing. It makes gunfights feel a lot more versatile and exhilarating. Backed with the pounding score that pulsates through each arena, the action often feels more exhilarating than it actually is. It’s a nice style, but executed poorly.
Nostalgia is a powerful tool. Many people’s fond memories of Space Invaders have resonated for many years and thousands of players still invest their time in combating their high score. Super Destronaut: Land Wars feels like a love letter to the game it so inspires to be, but loses everything that made it well-loved in translation. The concept is solid, but fails to ever reach the heights to create an addictive gameplay loop. For those who wonder whether Space Invaders would be more suited to a first person environment, Super Destronaut: Land Wars on the Xbox One says no.